Iraqi Government Extends Ban on al-Jazeerah
The caretaker Allawi government extended its ban on al-Jazeerah on Saturday. Al-Jazeerah itself reported that the government charged it with instigating attacks on its officials. Al-Jazeerah reports on Iraq quite extensively, and often manages to get better video and interviews than most Western news programs, so the closing of the Baghdad office appears not to be a serious obstacle. They do telephone interviews, e.g. So the only one hurt by this “ban” is the caretaker government, which looks heavy-handed and as though it is trying to stop criticism of itself. Al-Jazeerah does give a platform to Iraqi dissidents, but they also do ask tough questions of, e.g. Sadr’s representatives. Anyway, there are no grounds under the interim constitution (which guarantees freedom of speech) for the government to close the offices of a news organization. It is not an auspicious start for the new Iraq, and these kinds of measures, once taken, become foundational. So after all the brouhaha about Iraq as a shining beacon of democracy and liberty, its actual policy in al-Jazeerah’s case is worse than most Middle Eastern dictatorship.