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:
June 29, 2016
Diana Johnstone
European Unification Divides Europeans: How Forcing People Together Tears Them Apart
Andrew Smolski
To My Less-Evilism Haters: A Rejoinder to Halle and Chomsky
David Rosen
Birth-Control Wars: Two Centuries of Struggle
Jeffrey St. Clair
Noam Chomsky, John Halle and Henry the First: a Note on Lesser Evil Voting
Sheldon Richman
Brexit: What Kind of Dependence Now?
Yves Engler
“Canadian” Corporate Capitalism
Lawrence Davidson
Return to the Gilded Age: Paul Ryan’s Deregulated Dystopia
Priti Gulati Cox
All That Glitters is Feardom: Whatever Happens, Don’t Blame Jill Stein
Franklin Lamb
About the Accusation that Syrian and Russian Troops are Looting Palmyra
Binoy Kampmark
Texas, Abortion and the US Supreme Court
Anhvinh Doanvo
Justice Thomas’s Abortion Dissent Tolerates Discrimination
Victor Grossman
Brexit Pro and Con: the View From Germany
Manuel E. Yepe
Brazil: the Southern Giant Will Have to Fight
Rivera Sun
The Nonviolent History of American Independence
Adjoa Agyeiwaa
Is Western Aid Destroying Nigeria’s Future?
Jesse Jackson
What Clinton Should Learn From Brexit
Mel Gurtov
Is Brexit the End of the World?
June 28, 2016
Jonathan Cook
The Neoliberal Prison: Brexit Hysteria and the Liberal Mind
Paul Street
Bernie, Bakken, and Electoral Delusion: Letting Rich Guys Ruin Iowa and the World
Anthony DiMaggio
Fatally Flawed: the Bi-Partisan Travesty of American Health Care Reform
Mike King
The “Free State of Jones” in Trump’s America: Freedom Beyond White Imagination
Antonis Vradis
Stop Shedding Tears for the EU Monster: Brexit, the View From the Peloponnese
Omar Kassem
The End of the Atlantic Project: Slamming the Brakes on the Neoliberal Order
Binoy Kampmark
Brexit and the Neoliberal Revolt Against Jeremy Corbyn
Doug Johnson Hatlem
Alabama Democratic Primary Proves New York Times’ Nate Cohn Wrong about Exit Polling
Ruth Hopkins
Save Bear Butte: Mecca of the Lakota
Celestino Gusmao
Time to End Impunity for Suharto’’s Crimes in Indonesia and Timor-Leste
Thomas Knapp
SCOTUS: Amply Serving Law Enforcement’s Interests versus Society’s
Manuel E. Yepe
Capitalism is the Opposite of Democracy
Winslow Myers
Up Against the Wall
Chris Ernesto
Bernie’s “Political Revolution” = Vote for Clinton and the Neocons
Stephanie Van Hook
The Time for Silence is Over
Ajamu Nangwaya
Toronto’s Bathhouse Raids: Racialized, Queer Solidarity and Police Violence
June 27, 2016
Robin Hahnel
Brexit: Establishment Freak Out
James Bradley
Omar’s Motive
Gregory Wilpert – Michael Hudson
How Western Military Interventions Shaped the Brexit Vote
Leonard Peltier
41 Years Since Jumping Bull (But 500 Years of Trauma)
Rev. William Alberts
Orlando: the Latest Victim of Radicalizing American Imperialism
Patrick Cockburn
Brexiteers Have Much in Common With Arab Spring Protesters
Franklin Lamb
How 100 Syrians, 200 Russians and 11 Dogs Out-Witted ISIS and Saved Palmyra
John Grant
Omar Mateen: The Answers are All Around Us
Dean Baker
In the Wake of Brexit Will the EU Finally Turn Away From Austerity?
Ralph Nader
The IRS and the Self-Minimization of Congressman Jason Chaffetz
Johan Galtung
Goodbye UK, Goodbye Great Britain: What Next?
Martha Pskowski
Detained in Dilley: Deportation and Asylum in Texas
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail