Iraq’s interior ministry has given dozens of media outlets 45 days to comply with Communications and Media Commission (CMC) regulations over licences, or they will face “legal procedures.”
“The ministry calls on the officials of these institutions to (work with) the Communications and Media Commission during a period of 45 days from the date of issuing this statement,” the interior ministry said in a statement.
“The ministry is eager for these institutions to continue their work legally and in full freedom,” it said, adding that after the 45 days, “legal procedures will be applied, according to what the commission orders.”
Salem Mashkur, a member of the board of trustees of the CMC, the independent authority charged with regulating media organisations in Iraq, said on Monday that it had decided to restrict 39 media outlets including the BBC and Voice of America over problems with licences.
“The interior ministry requested a list of names of unlicensed channels from us and began to limit their travel only, and did not carry out raids or closures or confiscation of equipment, as is our right,” Mashkur said, adding that the aim was to “help them and the organisation of the work, only.”
The Journalism Freedoms Observatory (JFO), an Iraqi media rights organisation, meanwhile, said the CMC had in fact recommended banning 44 news outlets, and called for the move, which it said violated the constitution, to be reversed.
Iraq regularly ranks near the bottom of global press freedom rankings.
It was placed 152nd out of 179 countries in media rights watchdog Reporters Without Borders’ 2011-2012 World Press Freedom Index, down 22 from the year before.