Back to normal in Iraq

It’s probably reassuring for Iraq’s neighbours that the “democratic” Maliki government is gradually acquiring the characteristics of a bog-standard authoritarian regime.

Its latest move, reported in the New York Times, is to ban websites “deemed harmful to the public, to require internet cafes to register with the authorities and to press publishers to censor books”.

Familiar stuff, and just what you’d expect in Egypt, say, or Saudi Arabia, or Syria or Tunisia or …

Of course, as deputy culture minister Taher Naser al-Hmood points out: “Our constitution respects freedom of thought and freedom of expression, but that should come with respect for society as a whole, and for moral behaviour.” 

The NYT continues: 

In July, a government committee recommended that the drafting of a law allowing for official Internet monitoring and the prosecution of violators be expedited.

Among the prohibited sites, according to the committee’s report, would be those with subject matter including “drugs, terrorism, gambling, negative remarks about Islam and pornography.”

This spring, the government contacted the handful of Iraqi book publishers still in business and asked them to compile lists of their books, along with a description of the subject matter.

The material is to be kept at the Ministry of Culture, which is also preparing a document to be signed by publishers in which they will pledge not to distribute books the government deems offensive.

Posted by Brian Whitaker, 4 August 2009