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Outcry as Iraq moves to close 44 media orgs

Press freedom advocates cry foul as authorities announce closure of dozens of media outlets.

Iraqi officials today announced the impending closure of 44 media outlets due to “organizational” needs, a move decried by press freedom groups as a step backwards for the country’s young democracy, reported The Associated Press

The Iraq-based Journalistic Freedoms Observatory denounced today’s release of a list of media organizations set to be closed, a group that includes US-funded Arabic language Radio Sawa, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Radio Free Iraq as well as the BBC, according to AP

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Iraq’s communications and media commission said the organizations will be shut down because they lack proper documentation. Radio Sawa, however, said it is officially registered, reported RFE/RL

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Journalistic Freedoms Observatory director Ziyad al-Aajely described the move as “a setback to the freedom of journalism in Iraq,” telling AP that the government was sending a message to the press “that if you are not with us, then you are against us.”

The group also issued a statement calling for major reforms within the communications and media commission, accusing the agency of fining media organizations as much as 1,600,000,000 Iraqi dinars ($1.37 million) and using vague guidelines and regulations to crack down on the press. 

Commission head Safaa Rabie defended the group’s decision to shut down the agencies. “It is an organizational matter, not a crackdown on the press,” he told AP

No media organizations have been closed yet, and Radio Sawa broadcast as usual today, said AP.