Iraq Bans Al-Jazeera Broadcasts


Iraq Bans Al-Jazeera Broadcasts

A Sunni-Shiite war may be brewing in Iraq.  The governing body of the present government is Shiite, and has revoked the operating licenses of Al-Jazeera, 8 Sunni networks, and 1 Shiite.

Security has been deteriorating in the country due to Sunni unrest.  More than 180 people have been killed in the last week.

Al-Jazeera, based in the small, energy-rich Gulf nation of Qatar, said it was “astonished” by the move.

“We cover all sides of the stories in Iraq, and have done for many years. The fact that so many channels have been hit all at once, though, suggests this is an indiscriminate decision,” it said in an emailed statement. “We urge the authorities to uphold freedom for the media to report the important stories taking place in Iraq.”

The ban on broadcast networks took place immediately.

As unrest began over a week ago, Iraqi security forces were sent to the city of Hawija, where a Sunni protest was taking place just outside.  23 people were killed, including 3 soldiers.

Sunni lawmaker Dahfir al-Ani described the move to eliminate news from the country as part of the government’s attempts “to cover up the bloodshed that took place in Hawija and what is going on in other places in the country.”

Removing Saddam Hussein may have been a good thing for the country in the long run, but it totally destabilized the nation.  With three separate factions who are unable to co-exist, civil war is always a possibility.

Hussein was supported by the smaller Sunni contingent.  The Shiites are the majority, and the Kurds are Islamic, but not Arabic.  After the end of the 1st Gulf War, Shiites from the south, and Kurds from the north attempted to overturn Hussein’s regime.  The United States had promised support, but failed to provide it.  Thousands of Kurds and Shiites were killed.

By 2003, Saddam Hussein had fallen and news media sprang up all over the country, but it remains one of the most dangerous areas in the world for reporters.  Since 1992, more than 150 have been killed according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Al-Jazeera’s coverage has been temporarily shut down in other Arabic countries because of its aggressive coverage of the “Arab Spring”.  The other news services banned by the government were often critical of its actions.

James Turnage

Columnist-The Guardian Express