IFJ Warns of Threat to Free Speech as Iraq Considers Plans to Regulate Journalism

The International Federation of Journalists today urged Iraqi leaders to abandon any plans for the future administration of media in the country that might compromise free speech and press freedom.

“Democracy in Iraq will be won by defending human rights and the people’s right to know, not by returning to the bad old days of censorship and intimidation of journalists” said Aidan White IFJ General Secretary. “It is time for Iraq to finally break with the past, and not give in to the temptation to manipulate, control or censor information.”

The IFJ call comes just days after international press reports that Iraqi officials had created a Higher Media Commission charged with regulating print and broadcast media in Iraq and imposing sanctions against violators. There are reports that the Commission will have power to censor news coverage and impose bans on certain criticisms of the prime minister.

In a letter to the leaders of the new Iraqi government in Baghdad the IFJ today said Iraq had a “golden opportunity to set standards and benchmarks for freedom of expression” that would give momentum to calls for more free speech throughout the Arab world.

“Iraqi journalists after years under the intolerable burden of dictatorship now have the chance to play a significant role in creating a new democratic and just society,” said the IFJ in a letter to Iyad Allawi, Prime Minister of the Iraqi Interim Government.

The IFJ says that while a media commission may have a legitimate role to play in creating the framework for a new on media landscape, it must not become an instrument of to be used against journalists.

“We would like an assurance that Iraq will not put in place any mechanism that will open the door to political control of media,” said the IFJ, which has asked Iyad Allawi to reaffirm the rights of all journalists to work freely and safely and to allay fears that new press controls are on the way.

Link to Statement in Arabic: Statement in Arabic

Further information: + 32 2 235 22 07

The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 100 countries