Iraq has suspended the licences of 10 satellite television channels for promoting violence and sectarianism, a senior official at the country’s media watchdog has said.
“We took a decision to suspend the licence of some satellite channels that adopted language encouraging violence and sectarianism,” said Mujahid Abu al-Hail of the Communications and Media Commission (CMC) on Sunday.
“It means stopping their work in Iraq and their activities, so they cannot cover events in Iraq or move around,” Hail said.
The CMC said it believes that “the rhetoric and substance coverage” by Baghdad, Al Sharqiyah, Al Sharqiyah News, Babylonian, Salah al-Din, Anwar 2, al Tagheer, Fallujah, Al Jazeera and Al Gharbiyah, all TV channels that operate in the region, were “provocative, misleading and exaggerated with the objective of disturbing the civil and democratic process”.
“We are astonished by this development. We cover all sides of the stories in Iraq, and have done for many years. The fact that so many channels have been hit all at once though suggests this is an indiscriminate decision,” Al Jazeera said in a statement.
“We urge the authorities to uphold freedom for the media to report the important stories taking place in Iraq.” the statement added.
The move comes after a wave of violence that began on Tuesday with clashes between security forces and Sunni Arab protesters in northern Iraq that has killed a total of more than 215 people.
The violence is the deadliest so far linked to demonstrations that broke out in Sunni areas of the Shia-majority country more than four months ago.
The protesters have called for the resignation of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and railed against authorities for allegedly targeting their community, including what they say are wrongful detentions and accusations of involvement in terrorism. [AlJazeera]