Iraqi press freedom advocates are loudly protesting today after the news that the Iraqi Communications and Media Commission has ordered police to close 44 media outlets nationwide.
Iraqi officials shrugged off the news, saying it was an “organizational” matter and accusing the groups of not being formally licensed. The NGO workers say that it is rather an attempt by the Maliki regime to shutter critics of his continued rule.
So far the groups haven’t actually been shut down, but press freedom groups say that the order, as well as the implication that more closures could be ordered as well at any time, would have a chilling effect on domestic media in the nation.
Iraq’s government has been claiming broad authority for censorship virtually since its installation by US occupation forces, and with Maliki becoming a more and more polarizing figure, he is likely to see unfriendly press coverage as a challenge which, like so many other challenges to his rule, is to be met with force.