FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Occupation and Censorship

by ROBERT FISK The Independent

Sewage is coming through the manhole covers, there’s still only 15 hours electricity a day and anarchy grips the streets of Baghdad, but yesterday America’s toothless Iraqi “interim council” roared like a lion, issuing a set of restrictions and threats–against the press, of course.

Aimed primarily at the Arab satellite channels al-Jazeera and al-Arabiya, which always air Saddam Hussein’s tape recordings, the almost Orwellian rules — each of which begins with the words “do not” — mean Iraqi or foreign press and television news organisations can be closed if they “advocate the return of the Baath party or issue any statements that represent the Baath directly or indirectly [sic]”.

The council, which was appointed by Paul Bremer, the US proconsul, admitted yesterday that it had consulted his legal advisers before issuing its set of restrictions. True to the chaos that governs Baghdad, the council’s spokesman Intefadh Qanbar–Ahmed Chalabi’s man–initially said al-Jazeera and al-Arabiya were to be closed in Iraq. Within two hours, news emerged that the two Arabic-language channels would be punished for their alleged transgressions by being refused all co-operation from the “interim council” for two weeks–a punishment many journalists here would wish to have inflicted on them.

But the list nevertheless provides an intriguing reflection on the “democracy” that Mr Bremer–who ordered his legal advisers to draw up censorship rules in the late spring–wishes to bestow on Iraqis.

Some of the restrictions are so self-evident as to be naive. “Do not incite violence against any person or group,” for example, could have been enshrined in any civil law. But the references to the Baath party are clearly intended to prevent Iraqis hearing Saddam’s voice. The rule shows just how fearful the US authorities have become of his sympathisers.

After telling the world that most Iraqis are delighted with their “liberation” and forthcoming “democracy”, the authorities are obviously aware that many Iraqis don’t feel that way at all. Journalists must also inform the authorities of “any acts of sabotage, criminal activity, terrorism or any violent action … before or after an attack takes place”.

Journalists–even those with al-Jazeera–do not receive advance warning of ambushes. The rule is in effect asking them to become assistants to the occupation authorities.

There have been instances in the flourishing new Iraqi free press–there are now more than 100 newspapers in Baghdad–of incitement to “jihad” against the occupation authorities and false information on the behaviour of American troops. As it is, even reporting yesterday’s killing–or killings–near Falujah by a missile-firing American helicopter could fall into “incitement to violence”. US forces say they came under fire from a house in the city and killed “one enemy” (sic). But hospital doctors gave the names of three men killed, all members of the same family.

Robert Fisk is a reporter for The Independent and author of Pity the Nation. He is also a contributor to Cockburn and St. Clair’s forthcoming book, The Politics of Anti-Semitism.

Robert Fisk writes for the Independent, where this column originally appeared. 

More articles by:
May 31, 2016
Miguel A. Cruz-Díaz
Imperial Blues: On Whitewashing Dictatorship in the 21st Century
Vijay Prashad
Stoking the Fires: Trump and His Legions
Patrick Howlett-Martin
Libya: How to Bring Down a Nation
Uri Avnery
What Happened to Netanyahu?
Corey Payne
Reentry Through Resistance: Détente with Cuba was Accomplished Through Resistance and Solidarity, Not Imperial Benevolence
Bill Quigley
From Tehran to Atlanta: Social Justice Lawyer Azadeh Shahshahani’s Fight for Human Rights
Manuel E. Yepe
Trump, Sanders and the Exhaustion of a Political Model
Bruce Lerro
“Network” 40 Years Later: Capitalism in Retrospect and Prospect and Elite Politics Today
Robert Hunziker
Chile’s Robocops
Aidan O'Brien
What’ll It be Folks: Xenophobia or Genocide?
Binoy Kampmark
Emailgate: the Clinton Spin Doctors In Action
Colin Todhunter
The Unique Risks of GM Crops: Science Trumps PR, Fraud and Smear Campaigns
Dave Welsh
Jessica Williams, 29: Another Black Woman Gunned Down By Police
Gary Leupp
Rules for TV News Anchors, on Memorial Day and Every Day
May 30, 2016
Ron Jacobs
The State of the Left: Many Movements, Too Many Goals?
James Abourezk
The Intricacies of Language
Porfirio Quintano
Hillary, Honduras, and the Murder of My Friend Berta
Patrick Cockburn
Airstrikes on ISIS are Reducing Their Cities to Ruins
Uri Avnery
The Center Doesn’t Hold
Raouf Halaby
The Sailors of the USS Liberty: They, Too, Deserve to Be Honored
Rodrigue Tremblay
Barack Obama’s Legacy: What Happened?
Matt Peppe
Just the Facts: The Speech Obama Should Have Given at Hiroshima
Deborah James
Trade Pacts and Deregulation: Latest Leaks Reveal Core Problem with TISA
Michael Donnelly
Still Wavy After All These Years: Flower Geezer Turns 80
Ralph Nader
The Funny Business of Farm Credit
Paul Craig Roberts
Memorial Day and the Glorification of Past Wars
Colin Todhunter
From Albrecht to Monsanto: A System Not Run for the Public Good Can Never Serve the Public Good
Rivera Sun
White Rose Begins Leaflet Campaigns June 1942
Tom H. Hastings
Field Report from the Dick Cheney Hunting Instruction Manual
Weekend Edition
May 27, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
Silencing America as It Prepares for War
Rob Urie
By the Numbers: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are Fringe Candidates
Paul Street
Feel the Hate
Daniel Raventós - Julie Wark
Basic Income Gathers Steam Across Europe
Andrew Levine
Hillary’s Gun Gambit
Jeffrey St. Clair
Hand Jobs: Heidegger, Hitler and Trump
S. Brian Willson
Remembering All the Deaths From All of Our Wars
Dave Lindorff
With Clinton’s Nixonian Email Scandal Deepening, Sanders Must Demand Answers
Pete Dolack
Millions for the Boss, Cuts for You!
Peter Lee
To Hell and Back: Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Gunnar Westberg
Close Calls: We Were Much Closer to Nuclear Annihilation Than We Ever Knew
Karl Grossman
Long Island as a Nuclear Park
Binoy Kampmark
Sweden’s Assange Problem: The District Court Ruling
Robert Fisk
Why the US Dropped Its Demand That Assad Must Go
Martha Rosenberg – Ronnie Cummins
Bayer and Monsanto: a Marriage Made in Hell
Brian Cloughley
Pivoting to War
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail