Iraq: Blocking internet and media forebode a suppression of peaceful protests

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MADRID – Social media sites have been blocked in large areas of Iraq, this forebodes harsh repression of peaceful protests far from the eyes of cameras and news.

This coincided with protests that began in Iraq on the first of October in the capital Baghdad and in other several provinces, against the widespread corruption, and government policies.

Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and Twitter users in Iraq have noticed a near-complete halt, as well as other programs in several areas of the country.

Security forces suppressed the demonstrations, killing five protesters on Tuesday and Wednesday, in addition to injuring hundreds. They have used live fire and tear gas intensively.

Skyline International stresses that cutting Internet services and blocking social media sites is a clear violation of human rights, as the Internet today is an important tool in expressing opinions.

In July 2016, the UN Human Rights Council considered Internet access a human right, and confirmed that blocking or deliberately disrupting the Internet was a violation of that right.

A Prelude To Severe Repressions In Iraq

“While peaceful demonstrators are being suppressed, many Internet services and social media sites have been blocked from many Iraqi citizens,” says Meqdad Jamil, a legal researcher at Skyline International. This portends the possibility of greater violations and more severe repression. ”

Jamil explains that the disconnection of Internet services and the blocking of communication sites, which are considered one of the most important means of communication between citizens nowadays, is a clear violation of human rights.

Jamil stresses that the authorities sometimes deliberately suppress Internet services and pressure on social media to cover up violations and prevent reporting and dissemination to followers.

Meqdad Jameel explains that in the 2015 Joint Declaration on Freedom of Expression and Response to Conflict, UN experts and rapporteurs stressed that “even in times of conflict, under human rights law, the filtering of online content cannot be justified by stopping Telecommunications”.

Iraq is constantly resorting to a policy of disrupting Internet services. This is not the first time this has happened. In July 2018, similar protests were repressed in several Iraqi cities, during which the government resorted to cutting the Internet, to hide the size of excessive force in which protesters were suppressed.

This behavior violates any rights, including the right to freedom of expression and the right to information, and the right to freedom of assembly.

Skyline International confirms that the UN Human Rights Council resolution on Internet access must be respected, and calls on the Iraqi authorities to make the Internet accessible to all.

It stresses that the presence of the Internet is a fundamental pillar to reduce violations, through disseminating and exposing them constantly. In this context, it calls on companies that provide Internet services to not comply with the government decision on blocking sites and cutting off the electronic network.

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