Iraq’s government issued a statement today lashing out at the “local, Arab and international mass media” for their coverage of the recent arrests of members of the US-backed Awakening Councils. The statement claimed the media has launched a “coordinated campaign” against the Maliki government and speculated “about the real goals of these campaigns and the groups behind them.”
Late last month, the Awakening forces in and around Baghdad rallied against the government, claiming they had reneged on the promises of employment that were made when the US transferred control over them to the Maliki government. The government responded by arresting one of the group’s leaders, sparking a gunbattle which was used as a pretext to arrest them en masse. Maliki later claimed the group had been infiltrated by members of both al-Qaeda and the former Ba’athist government.
Yet now that they’ve linked the US-based militia group with al-Qaeda, the Maliki government is irked that the media is portraying them as targeting the group in general. In doing that, they claim the media is portraying “wanted men as heroes” to “provoke hateful sectarian strife.”
It is unclear what actions they can take against what they perceived as being a broad conspiracy, but censorship of individual media outlets using similar language about sectarian strife has been all too common in recent years. Only today, the Iraqi military is attempting to shutter a major newspaper and a television station over what Major General Moussawi claims is a misquote regarding the government’s intention to arrest detainees released by the US.