(IRAQ, LANKAPUVATH) – The office of audiovisual media of the Iraqi government’s Media and Communications Commission has issued a decree on October 23, 2017, No. 5/9714/A/7, which without any prior warning or complaint, orders the shutdown of Rudaw TV broadcast, prevention of its crews and seizure of their equipment across Iraq. The decree says that grounds for this move is that Rudaw is not licensed by their commission, and for broadcasting some programs “That incite violence and hate and target social peace and security.” Rudaw was never served this letter officially.
Rudaw Media Network is licensed by the Ministry of Culture of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) which is part of the federal government of Iraq and functions on the Iraqi constitution. This decision has been relayed to various government institutions, which puts into question the nature of the decision in the first place. It has been sent to Iraq’s intelligence department, the ministry of defense and Army Joint Chiefs of Staff. It has also been sent to telecommunication companies that work with Rudaw in order to stop facilitating Rudaw’s work.
Sending such a paper to army and intelligence agencies shows a premeditated plan against Rudaw Media Network. Therefore, we openly and legally hold the Iraqi government responsible for the safety of all Rudaw employees, and we consider that decision illegal and an intimidation of Rudaw and freedom of press in Iraq.
This decision by Iraq’s Media and Communications Commission is a political decision. It’s against freedom of press and contradicts a government that calls itself democratic and committed to the constitution. Iraq’s constitution guarantees freedom of press in Iraq and does not allow the closure of any media.
We hereby announce that the management of Rudaw Media Network and its legal department are ready along with a team of foreign experts and Iraq’s Media and Communications Commission of Iraq to form a committee to review all Rudaw TV’s programs since its launch on May 29, 2013 to October 23, 2017 and investigate the accusations of Iraq’s Media and Communications Commission.
We also would like to point out that since its start Rudaw has maintained a bureau in Baghdad and our reporters are permitted to cover the Iraqi parliament, all official events and they have been regularly invited to attend the weekly addresses of Iraq’s prime minister. Our teams continued to work legally until two days before the advance of Iraqi armed forces to Kirkuk. However, two days prior to those events the Rudaw staff in Baghdad received threats and the military banned Rudaw from Kirkuk. We expected the Iraqi government to condemn this move and speak in defense of our staff. We did not expect such a decision that would further threaten our staff in Baghdad and Kirkuk.
Iraq’s Media and Communications Commission is discriminating against Rudaw and calls it a “Kurdish channel” while it overlooks the work of many radio and TV stations across Iraq which attack the country’s various religious and ethnic communities on a daily basis. Some of these outlets do not even have a license to operate.
We demand the commission to revoke this illegal decision and lift the ban they have imposed on Rudaw in Baghdad, Kirkuk, Khanaqin, Makhmour, Shingal and Tuz Khurmatu. And we ask Iraq’s Interior Ministry to protect Rudaw’s staff and our bureaus from intimidation and the hostile atmosphere created around them. We do also ask Iraqi Prime Minister Mr. Haider al-Abadi, all Iraqi state institutions, parties and parliamentary factions to voice their concern about this illegal ban and work for its revocation.
We ask the United Nations office in Iraq (UNAMI), the United States Embassy in Baghdad and Consulate General in Erbil, the office of the European Union in Baghdad and Erbil, and all foreign embassies in Baghdad to show their support as this is against freedom of press and democracy in Iraq.
We similarly ask Iraq’s Syndicate of Journalists, Syndicate of Journalists in Kurdistan, Metro Center for the Defense of Journalists, International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Reporters Without Borders (RWB) and all press freedom organizations to speak up against this ban and threats and intimidation facing journalists in Iraq and bear pressure on the Iraqi government to revoke this decision for the sake of media freedoms.
(Rudaw Media Network)