Iraq’s national television station, Al Iraqiya, had a news broadcast earlier this month with a statement by PM Nuri Al Maliki which I thought was worth mentioning here:
“Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki stressed that the freedom of the press in new Iraq is one of the most important democratic gains that our people achieved after the toppling of the tyrant regime. He added that protecting journalists and media institutions, and strengthening the role of the press, which is considered the fourth estate, top our priorities. In a statement issued by the Prime Ministry’s Media Office, the prime minister directed the Ministries of Defence and Interior and the government institutions to facilitate the mission of journalists and satellite channels’ correspondents and protect them so they can carry out their duties. The prime minister stressed the need to take deterring measures against those involved in harming journalists and media figures and in violating their rights and freedom. The statement said that those who violate the prime minister’s directives should be penalized. Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki reiterated the government’s eagerness to ensure the freedom of media and press in Iraq.” *
The statement came at what many may consider to be a symbolic time in Iraq when the country’s new flag was flown for the first time, set over Baghdad’s cabinet building – a sign of the new Iraq, albeit a temporary one until the final version of the flag is finished next year.
I should say right now that I have a lot of trouble openly accepting the claims that were made in the statement, and I’m regularly told to be more optimistic about Al Maliki’s position.
But it’s not easy to forget the numerous bans that were put in place affecting outlets that were responsible for “stirring up religious and ethnic passions.” TV stations have been shut down and journalists taken into custody under the PM.
While I do believe in the principles, his plans and ambitions, and I understand he’s trying to play a certain role – and doing so more successfully than his predecessor – the conflicts do not justify blatant banning and threats of censorship, and that is exactly what has been done in the recent past.
There is no real freedom of speech if there are the exceptions.
* I found this English translation online.