Iraq – Media Politics & Press Freedom – Script (en)

Freedom of press and expression in Iraq haven’t met yet the international-western standards. What exists in Iraq is the pluralism of media, which reflects the partisan, ethnic and religious pluralism.

These media outlets do not work freely, they often face harassment from the different political parties, who are also part of the confused scenery in Iraq, which suffers from instability and foreign interventions, making journalists risk their and their family lives if they reveal facts related to the widespread corruption.

Since 2003, over 700 journalists were killed in Iraq, and that reduced massively the presence of international media, especially foreign journalists.

Article 36 of the Iraqi constitution guaranteed the freedom of press and expression.

Firstly: The freedom of expression by all means.

Secondly: The freedom of press, print, advertising, media and publishing.

Although these freedoms are guaranteed by the Constitution, the Iraqi journalists face many difficulties in ensuring objective and neutral media coverage. Many governmental bodies apply restrictions on media institutions or try to forcefully prevent journalists from covering events. This is usually practiced in the name of protecting the country from media discourse that threatens the social fabric, and the unity of the different factions and ethnicities. In some cases, the Communications and Media Commission, which is a government body, have suspended or closed Iraqi satellite channels under this pretext or other.

The Constitution also stipulates a complete and absolute freedom of the press as an essential part of freedom of expression, but this constitutional provision adopted in 2005 did not translate into legislation. The only law that protects Iraqi journalists was passed in 2011.

Its fourth article states:

“Journalists have the right to obtain information, news, data and statistics, which are not restricted from their different sources and have the right to publish them in accordance to the law.”

Many journalists and media activists objected against this article, and considered it a violation of freedom of expression.

They have also objected against Article 6 of the same law, which states: “Journalists have the right of access to reports, information and official releases, and related entities must enable them to have access to them and make use of them unless the disclosure of the mentioned material is harmful to public order and is in conflict with the law.” Objectors state that this article blocks the full freedom, and prevents publishing any information about administrative or financial corruption, and it also may allow putting journalists on trial, based on the Iraqi Criminal Laws related to libel.

Article 7 of the same Law states: “The tools of journalistic work should not be intercepted except in accordance to the law.” Objectors say this article allows the confiscation of equipment for various reason.

The same goes for Article 8: “Journalists may not be questioned or harmed for their opinions or information they publish, unless their action was against the law.” Objectors agree that this article does not provide protection for journalists, because any free journalistic work, is a violation of the law.

These laws, are added to the authority’s decision number 14 from 2003, which gave the prime minister the authority to close any media institution, confiscate its equipment and money, and even imprison its staff.

Dr. Muhsen Aboud Kashkul

Social Network Sites have special presence in Iraq. Facebook is very popular among Iraqis. People use it to discuss different issues, especially political, considering the free space it offers.

The recent judiciary's decision to consider Facebook a media outlet, does not hold a legal status, since Facebook, on the one hand, is not a media institution registered in Iraq according to the Iraqi law, and on the other hand, is originally a US site, located outside the jurisdiction of the Iraqi judiciary.

Not to mention the possibilities of hacking of some pages that puts the owners under legal liability.

We do not deny the citizens right to be protected against attempts of defamation or insults and slander, as we also do not deny the need to protect the society from the infiltration of hate speech and extremism, but we believe that in principle, this conflicts with the right of access to information and media freedoms.

Adding to this, our apprehension of the political exploitation of such decision will have a negative impact on media pluralism.So when publishing materials, there must be a professional and objective control, under moral standards. Recognizing the right of the media to know everything, should not mean saying anything. The choice to publish should take into consideration the specificity of the society and the nature of its problems.