Iraq closes Al Jazeera bureau for ‘inciting violence’

The Qatar-based news network said it had not violated regulations or deviated from professional and objective coverage, while Iraqi authorities claim its coverage is friendly to ISIL and hostile to the country’s Shiite majority.

BAGHDAD // Iraqi authorities have shut down the Al Jazeera channel’s Baghdad office, accusing Qatar’s state-funded TV network of inciting violence and sectarianism.

Iraq’s communications and media commission (CMC) sent the Al Jazeera media network a letter informing it of a March 24 decision to withdraw the bureau’s licence and close its office for one year.

The letter cited “your continuing violations and offences and persistent media discourse instigating violence and sectarianism”.

On Wednesday, the Doha-based news network — one of the largest in the region — said that it had not violated regulations or deviated from professional and objective coverage.

Al Jazeera has repeatedly come under fire from the Iraqi authorities for coverage perceived as too friendly to the ISIL extremist group and hostile to the country’s Shiite majority.

The network’s foreign staff were unable to enter Iraq because the authorities had made it difficult for them to obtain visas, the network’s Iraqi bureau chief Walid Ibrahim said.

The CMC’s decision contradicts the Iraqi government’s “commitment to guarantee freedom of expression”, Al Jazeera said.

Ziad Ajili, from the Journalistic Freedoms Observatory, condemned the move, saying that the CMC does not have direct authority to close media offices in Iraq.

* Agence France-Presse

Published: April 28, 2016 04:00 AM

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