The Communications and Media Commission (CMC) of Iraq has recommended the banning of 44 Iraqi and local media agencies to the Ministry of Interiors, according to a document obtained by Journalistic Freedom Observatory (JFO)
Included in the reported closure order which was already approved by the Deputy Interior Minister according to the JFO report, are "prominent local TV channels and radio stations such as Sharqiya and Baghdadia satellite television stations and foreign-owned media such as BBC, Radio Sawa and Voice of America,"
The reported closure order came in the wake of recent demonstrations in Baghdad’s Firdos Square by the followers of cleric Muqtada al Sadr on media restrictions in Iraq.
Prominent Baghdad journalist Sarmad al-Taee said, “The list of regulations clearly shows how restrictions are preemptive, vague and easily misused,” and demanded “immediate talks between the Iraqi media and CMC, to review the murky relationship between the CMC and the private media sector,” JFO reported.
Among others, the list states that media agencies refrain from broadcasting “any content that encourages sectarianism or violence,” without providing a clear guidelines or definitions.
Ziyad al-Aajely, head of the Journalistic Freedoms Observatory, called the move to shut down media offices "a setback to the freedom of journalism in Iraq." Jakarta Post reported
"It is a government message to the media outlets that if you are not with us, then you are against us," he said by telephone.
Several media agencies included in the list said they have appropriate licenses issued by the Iraqi government and were surprised to see their names in the closure list.
One of those included in the list, U.S.-funded Radio Sawa, says it does have a license.
"We were surprised to see our radio station on the list because we think that we work in accordance with all Iraqi laws," Sawa deputy director Salah Nasrawi said.
Although no media outlet has been closed so far, critics are saying the leadership of Prime Minister Nouri al-Malik appears to be warning media of possible crackdown with his "with us or against us" message.