Shortly before the MBC bureau was stormed and ransacked, dozens of Iraqis staged a protest outside to demand its closure, climbed its perimeter wall, sprayed graffiti on its walls and hung a sign with the words “Closed by order of the people” and “MBC - Saudi terrorist TV.”
Their anger was sparked by the special daily Ramadan programme entitled “Malek Beltawilah” that MBC broadcast on 14 May. It mentioned a suicide attack in Beirut in 1981 that was organized by the military wing of the Iraqi Shia organization Al-Hashd Al-Shaabi, and it used the term “terrorist” to refer to Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, its deputy chief, who was killed in the same US drone strike that killed Iranian Revolutionary Guard commander Qasem Soleimani near Baghdad airport in January.
The Iraqi interior ministry issued a statement later yesterday condemning the attack on the MBC bureau and regretting that the protesters had not used Iraqi legislation to file a complaint against MBC with the national media regulator. The Iraqi authorities also announced that the regulator had begun proceedings with MBC to “rectify what was broadcast.”
“Condemning the ransacking of the TV channel is not enough,” said Sabrina Bennoui, the head of RSF’s Middle East desk. “The Iraqi authorities must take concrete measures to secure its employees’ ability to work, to guarantee their personal safety and to punish those responsible for yesterday’s damage.”
RSF also condemns a statement by the parliamentary committee for communications and media (which is independent of the government) calling for the MBC bureau to be closed if it did not apologize and condemning the “constant attacks on national symbols by media institutions whose funding and common position are well known.”
Iraq is ranked 162nd out of 180 countries and territories in RSF's 2020 World Press Freedom Index.