DHAKA: In Iraqi regulatory body has ordered the closure of 44 media outlets in the country including the BBC and Voice of America in a dispute over broadcast licenses, although no action has yet been taken.
Other organisations targeted for shutdown include privately-owned local TV channels Sharqiya and Baghdadia, as well as US-financed Radio Sawa.
‘It is an organisational matter, not a crackdown on the press’, Safaa Rabie, the head of Iraq’s Communications and Media Commission (CMC), the body responsible for the order, said.
Another senior source at the body said the move had nothing to do with the way the outlets had reported on sectarian conflict in the country, as some reports have suggested.
‘The CMC sent a letter warning that they were going to shut down their services because they didn’t pay (their license fees)’, a senior source at the CMC told Reuters, Hurriyet reports on June 26.
The regulator has passed its order to the Baghdad operations command, the source added, referring to the local law enforcement forces that would carry out the closures.
‘This is totally wrong and unwise as it comes at a time when the country is plunged into political uncertainty’, said Ziyad al-Ajili, the head of the Journalistic Freedoms Observatory.
‘We are confident that the decision is not political, but its negative implications will definitely have political implications on the government and harm the reputation of Iraq as a free country’, he added.
The BBC said it was negotiating the renewal of its license with the Iraqi authorities.
‘The delay is due to technicalities’, it said in a statement.
‘The BBC’s journalists in Baghdad are not currently experiencing any issues reporting from the country, and it is important that the BBC and other international news organizations are able to operate freely and bring independent and impartial news to audiences in Iraq and the wider region.’
BDST: 1355 HRS, JUN 26, 2012
Edited by Robab Rosan, Cultural Affairs Editor
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