Washington D.C., May 18, 2017–Authorities in Iraq’s western Al-Anbar Province should rescind their order closing the Ramadi office of satellite news channel Dijlah TV, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. The Council of Al-Anbar Province on May 16 ordered the bureau closed, days after the Jordan-based channel aired a report alleging local government officials were involved in smuggling fuel and fighters to the Islamic State group.
The channel reported on its website that the council, the province’s legislature, had ordered its Ramadi office to close because of a report the channel aired two days prior that included audio recordings and images of documents purporting to show that local government officials were involved in smuggling oil and fighters to the Islamic State group. Ahmed Zangah, the station’s news manager, told CPJ that their Ramadi correspondent received a phone call from a local government official instructing him to cease reporting in the area, and that the channel had instructed the correspondent to comply. The channel’s other bureaus in Iraq continue to function as usual, he said.
“If authorities in Iraq’s Al-Anbar Province dispute Dijlah TV’s investigative reports, they should publicly and convincingly refute those reports, not close down the station’s office,” said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour. “We call on Iraqi officials to rescind this order, and to cease trying to censor the news.”
In its May 16 report on the bureau’s closure, Dijlah TV aired audio of council member Taha Abdel Ghani saying that the council had ordered the bureau to close because the channel had “departed from independence and neutrality,” had attempted to bring down the regional government and its symbols, and had sought to destabilize the region in an effort bring back rule by the Islamic State group. In the same report, Dijlah TV denied Abdel Ghani’s accusations and said the council had overstepped its authority.
Abdel Ghani, of the Al-Anbar Council, did not immediately return an email or messages sent via Facebook requesting comment. The Iraqi Communications and Media Commission, a regulator, likewise did not immediately respond to CPJ’s email.