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.

More articles by:

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

Weekend Edition
November 17, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Thank an Anti-War Veteran
Andrew Levine
What’s Wrong With Bible Thumpers Nowadays?
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
The CIA’s House of Horrors: the Abominable Dr. Gottlieb
Wendy Wolfson – Ken Levy
Why We Need to Take Animal Cruelty Much More Seriously
Mike Whitney
Brennan and Clapper: Elder Statesmen or Serial Fabricators?
David Rosen
Of Sex Abusers and Sex Offenders
Ryan LaMothe
A Christian Nation?
Dave Lindorff
Trump’s Finger on the Button: Why No President Should Have the Authority to Launch Nuclear Weapons
W. T. Whitney
A Bizarre US Pretext for Military Intrusion in South America
Deepak Tripathi
Sex, Lies and Incompetence: Britain’s Ruling Establishment in Crisis 
Howard Lisnoff
Who You’re Likely to Meet (and Not Meet) on a College Campus Today
Roy Morrison
Trump’s Excellent Asian Adventure
John W. Whitehead
Financial Tyranny
Ted Rall
How Society Makes Victimhood a No-Win Proposition
Jim Goodman
Stop Pretending the Estate Tax has Anything to do With Family Farmers
Thomas Klikauer
The Populism of Germany’s New Nazis
Murray Dobbin
Is Trudeau Ready for a Middle East war?
Jeiddy Martínez Armas
Firearm Democracy
Jill Richardson
Washington’s War on Poor Grad Students
Ralph Nader
The Rule of Power Over the Rule of Law
Justin O'Hagan
Capitalism Equals Peace?
Matthew Stevenson
Into Africa: From the Red Sea to Nairobi
Geoff Dutton
The Company We Sadly Keep
Evan Jones
The Censorship of Jacques Sapir, French Dissident
Linn Washington Jr.
Meek Moment Triggers Demands for Justice Reform
Gerry Brown
TPP, Indo Pacific, QUAD: What’s Next to Contain China’s Rise?
Robert Fisk
The Exile of Saad Hariri
Romana Rubeo - Ramzy Baroud
Anti-BDS Laws and Pro-Israeli Parliament: Zionist Hasbara is Winning in Italy
Robert J. Burrowes
Why are Police in the USA so Terrified?
Chuck Collins
Stop Talking About ‘Winners and Losers’ From Corporate Tax Cuts
Ron Jacobs
Private Property Does Not Equal Freedom
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Mass Shootings, Male Toxicity and their Roots in Agriculture
Binoy Kampmark
The Fordist Academic
Frank Scott
Weapons of Mass Distraction Get More Destructive
Missy Comley Beattie
Big Dick Diplomacy
Michael Doliner
Democracy, Real Life Acting and the Movies
Dan Bacher
Jerry Brown tells indigenous protesters in Bonn, ‘Let’s put you in the ground’
Winslow Myers
The Madness of Deterrence
Cesar Chelala
A Kiss is Not a Kiss: Sexual Abuse and Exploitation of Children
Jimmy Centeno
Garcia Meets Guayasamin: A De-Colonial Experience
Stephen Martin
When Boot Becomes Bot: Surplus Population and The Human Face.
Martin Billheimer
Homer’s Iliad, la primera nota roja
Louis Proyect
Once There Were Strong Men
Charles R. Larson
Review: Mike McCormack’s Solar Bones
David Yearsley
Academics Take Flight
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail