MADRID — Skyline International claims that the closure of the Dijlah TV station in Baghdad is a violation of freedom of the press and that it represents the authorities’ persistence in their campaign against the media and journalists.
According to reports received by Skyline International, an official security force stormed the Dijlah bureau at dawn on Tuesday, January 28. They brought the employees out and closed the facilities.
Neither the Iraqi authorities nor other official sources commented on the decision of closure, but some observers cited a previous decision by the Iraqi Media and Communications Authority to shut the station down.
“This closure coincides with numerous violations against journalists in Iraq since the beginning of the mass demonstrations,” says Muath Hamid, spokesman for the Middle East and North Africa at Skyline International.
Work at the official headquarters of Dijlah TV in Jordan was suspended a few days ago. Jordan Media Authority said that its decision against the station arose due to a violation of the provisions of the TV Programs License Renewal Law. More than 80 Iraqi journalists and administrators work for Dijlah in Baghdad, and more than 50 others, including Jordanians, work at its headquarters in Amman.
Skyline International says that there has been systematic cooperation between the Iraqi and Jordanian authorities in these actions against Dijlah, especially in view of these actions arising simultaneously as apparent responses to the channel’s coverage of popular protests across Iraq. These massive protests began in October 2019.
Security forces violently suppressed them, killing hundreds and injuring thousands of citizens and journalists alike.
Last October was considered the worst month on record for more than 17 years with regard to freedom of the press in Iraq, according to human rights reports.
The same month witnessed 89 cases of violations against journalists. More recently, in November a security force raided the Iraqi Dijlah bureau and confiscated its devices.
Representatives of the TV station declared this “a violation of their constitutional rights, an arbitrary act to terrorize them.”
Other Broadcast Stations
In November 2019, the Iraqi Media and Communications Commission closed nine TV stations (including Dijlah), warned four others, and permanently shut down four radio stations, citing a supposed “violation of professional codes of conduct.”
Skyline International attests that the Iraqi Media and Communications Authority is a regulatory body, not an executive agency, and thus has no right to stop any station’s broadcasts without a court order.
Hamid says that targeting the press and media institutions is a systematic strategy of the Iraqi authorities, especially regarding the right of the media to cover the protests.
“The authorities in Iraq want to tame the media — making them allies, rejecting the protests, and sending a message to everyone who opposes this, that their fate is expulsion and closure,” Hamid adds.
Skyline International calls on the authorities to countermand the decision to close Dijlah TV, to stop the horrific violations of media freedoms, and to abide by the provisions of the Iraqi constitution and laws governing journalistic work.
It also calls upon the Iraqi parliament to intervene in order to stop the assaults on freedom of the press and to hold accountable those who are responsible for these obvious violations against journalists.