New York, November 2, 2010–The Committee to Protect Journalists is alarmed by the Iraqi authorities’ decision to close down Al-Baghdadia TV offices in Iraq. The closure of the Cairo-based satellite channel was announced after it broadcast the demands of gunmen who attacked a church in Baghdad on Sunday. Fifty-eight people were killed during the siege, according to news reports.
On Monday, security forces sealed the station’s Baghdad and Basra offices. No one was allowed to enter the buildings, according to Al-Baghdadia bureau chief in Cairo, Abdelhamid al-Saih. The Communications and Media Commission (CMC), a media regulatory body, issued a statement on its website announcing the decision to shut Al-Baghdadia’s offices.
“We are concerned by the closure of Al-Baghdadia TV and demand that the CMC explain under what authority it has stormed the station’s offices and censored it,” said Mohamed Abdel Dayem, CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa program coordinator. “We call on the authorities to allow the station to resume its operations immediately.”
The CMC said in its statement that the attackers had “contacted the station and selected it to be the exclusive platform for their inhumane practices with the purpose of disrupting Iraq’s national unity and to inflame religious discord.” The statement said the station’s broadcast of demands “amounts to incitement to violence” and that Al-Baghdadia’s coverage was not objective, creating a threat to the military operation by providing attackers with information about ongoing operations to rescue the hostages.