News

September 4, 2019

Iraq shuts down TV broadcaster after report on corruption

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on Iraq’s authorities to rescind yesterday’s decision to immediately shut down the Iraqi operations of the US-funded satellite TV channel Al Hurra for three months amid an outcry over the report it broadcast three days ago about corruption within Iraq’s religious institutions.

The closure was ordered by Iraq’s Communications and Media Commission, which has called on Al Hurra to issue a public apology for its “contempt and abuse of symbols and personalities of religious institutions” and its “violation of the broadcast laws.” The commission added that the three-month suspension was “a final warning” and that even more severe sanctions could follow.

Al Hurra issued a statement defending the report as “fair, balanced and professional” and claiming that “individuals and institutions were given the right of reply, which they declined.” Al Hurra was still prepared to give these institutions the opportunity to reply, the statement said.

This TV channel’s closure confirms the difficulty of investigative reporting on corruption in Iraq, especially when the country’s most prominent figures and institutions are directly implicated,” RSF’s Middle East desk said. “We urge the authorities to rescind this disproportionate sanction and to allow journalist to do their job to inform the public.

At least seven political movements had pressed for sanctions against Al Hurra. Hashd Al-Shaabi, a Shia paramilitary coalition, condemnedthe increasingly aggressive rhetoric of several local and international TV channels,” especially “the Pentagon-linked Al Hurra channel.

The parliamentary coalition Hikma accused Al Hurra of “defaming” religious institutions, while former Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi deploredany direct or indirect targeting” of religious institutions.

Iraq is ranked 156th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index.