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Iraqi journalists call for solidarity after latest government media closure

IRAQI journalists appealed for international solidarity today after the government closed a television station in Baghdad.

Security forces acting on behalf of the Ministry of the Interior raided the headquarters of the Dijlah TV station in Baghdad late on Monday night.

They said that the station would be banned from broadcasting for a month due to its coverage of ongoing anti-government protests.

Dijlah TV is one of the most-watched satellite channels in the country and is allied with the Iraqi MP Mohammed al-Karbouli.

The Jordan-based organisation has previously come under attack after exposing government corruption.

The National Union of Journalists in Iraq (NUJI) said that the shutdown came after a complaint was lodged by an unknown Iraqi political party.

The union condemned the decision, warning that “freedom of opinion and expression is a right guaranteed by the Iraqi constitution and no political party has the right to restrict it for any reason.”

Journalists have reported “unprecedented repression” since the uprising began in October last year, with 118 cases of assault against journalists including electrocution, battery shock, suffocation and the use of tear gas documented in 2019.

Last week, photojournalist Youssef Sattar was killed while covering anti-government protests in Khilani Square in the centre of the Iraqi capital.

And earlier this month, Dijlah correspondent Ahmad Abdelsamad and camera operator Safaa Ghali were shot dead during demonstrations in the southern city of Basra.

In response, a group of journalists urged media workers to boycott government officials until a thorough investigation is carried out.

The NUJI declared its support for “the legitimate demands of our people” when the protest began in October.

It closely follows the condition of journalists, particularly those in the field and documents all violations and attacks.

The union is one of the signatories to the National Initiative By Civil Society to Support the Nonviolent October Uprising in Iraq.

Speaking to the Morning Star today, NUJI spokesman Haider al-Maytham explained that security forces moved in on the Dijlah satellite station after an order from the Iraqi government.

“The recent demonstrations have seen the satellite channels exposing the weaknesses of the government through their coverage,” he said.

He appealed to journalists and trade unionists to build a network of solidarity with all Iraqi media workers.

The Iraqi government must provide “a safe environment for journalists” so they are able to cover demonstrations and report the news without being under threat, he said.

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