Iraq's draft media law under fire

The Vienna-based International Press Institute has issued a statement criticising the Iraqi government’s draft media law.

I haven’t seen the full text (anyone who has a copy please sent it to me) but from what has been reported it contains the usual statements about protecting journalist, freedom of expression, etc – and the usual get-out clauses. In other words, it’s typical of the media laws promulgated by authoritarian regimes and mirrors the repressive approach already seen in Iraq’s proposed internet law.

For example, the new law would prohibit journalists from “compromising the security and stability of the country” – a vaguely-worded phrase which, as the IPI notes, can be used “to snuff out and punish virtually any form of criticism of government and state interests”. In fact, the same phrase is currently being used in Yemen to put journalists on trial in the special press court.

The draft also forbids aggressive or provocative statements and says that what is published must not "serve enemies of the state" – leaving it to the authorities to decide what is meant by "enemies of the state" or “aggressive” or “provocative”.

AFP quotes Hadi Jalow Marai of the Baghdad-based Journalism Freedom Observatory: "We are rejecting the draft law ... because it is not going to be used to protect journalists, but as a means for the government to use it against journalists and to limit their freedoms."

Posted by Brian Whitaker, 13 August 2009