Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Journalist wounded in Baghdad, attacks on the press throughout Iraq

Yesterday was May Day.  Ali Hussein (Al Mada) reports that Nouri al-Maliki responded to the various gatherings and celebrations by the Communist Party by insisting that the Party's actions did nothing to help workers and, basically, the Party should just be quiet and be content to see Nouri, on the official holiday, visit a car factory.  Dar Addustour reports hundreds gathered in Baghdad's Firdous Square and that they called for the rights guaranteed to them by the Constitution.  They called for the government to work together and end the political crisis to do what's best for the Iraqi citizens and they called for the right to organize to be honored.  They also want to see an increase in the standard of living.

iraq may day
The Iraqi Communist Party publishes a number of photos including the one above and notes that they called for the government to stop interfering in the trade unions and to focus instead on fighting corruption and terrorism.

They were peaceful celebrations -- naturally Nouri was offended.

Turning to violence, Alsumaria notes a former military colonel was attacked in Mosul and shot dead and that a staffer in Ayad Allawi's office was assassinated -- stabbed today while he was near the National Accord Movement headquarters.  (Another source tells Alsumaria the staffer was shot dead.)   In Dohuk Province, a Christian Church, Saint Khanana, was vandelized and some items stolenTV reporter Rashid Majid Hamid was injured by a sticky bombing of his car in Baghdad

The attack on the journalist comes as a new report on the attack on journalism in Iraq is released.  The Journalistic Freedoms Observatory has released the report covering the last twelve months and they've found an increase in violence and restrictions and attempted restrictions on journalists.   They note an American journalist was arrested and helf for five days without any legal justification while Iraqi journalists were detained in various ways and also attacked and kidnapped by armed groups.   At least 3 journalists were killed in the 12 months and at least 31 were beaten  -- usually by military and security forces who were sometimes in civilian clothes.  65 journalists were arrested.

It's a very bleak picture.  In addition there are various bills proposed that supposedly 'protect' journalists but actually erode the rights of journalists.  The Ministry of the Interior's spokesperson Adnan al-Asadi declared that journalism can be "a threat to domestic security" and that journalsits shouldn't report on any arrests or killings without the express permission of the Ministry of the Interior.  (Clearly, Retuers must agree with that policy since they abolished their daily Factbox that used to cover violence in Iraq.)

The three journalists who died in the 12 months were:  Hadi al-Mahdi who was killed by a gunshot to the head while in his Baghdad home, Kameran Salah al-Din who was killed by a sticky bomb attached to his car (in Tikrit) and Salim Alwan who was killed by a bombing in Diwaniya. 

AFP notes the report states.  "JFO has documented a noticeable increase in the rate of violence against journalists/media workers and restrictions imposed on their work.“Multiple bills are being introduced by the government, which threaten to severely limit freedom of the press, general freedom of expression and Internet use."

Turning to the ongoing political crisis, Al Mada reports Nouri's State of Law is suddenly insisting that the Erbil Agreement was not illegal.  Nouri used the agreement to get a second term as prime minister and then he trashed it refusing to honor the promises he'd made to get his second term.  Since trashing it, Nouri and his flunkies have tried to insist the the Erbil Agreement was unconstitutiona.  It wasn't.  Extra-constitutional is not unconstitutional.  But if you argue that it's illegal, then you're arguing that Nouri's second term is illegal.  That might be behind their change of heart.  Or they might be worried about Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani's call for the agreement to be published and the public reaction to the publication.   Certainly, State of Law calling it illegal and then it being published would leave many Iraqis wondering why State of Law agreed to it if it was illegal.  Regardless of the reason, State of Law has changed their position on the Erbil Agreement today.

The day it appears the minutes of the meeting on the Erbil Agreement were published.  (They're dated November 11, 2010.)

There's a ton of news coming out of Iraq this morning including Alsumaria reporting former Speaker of Parliament (during Nouri's first term) Mahmoud al-Mashhadni stating that his son and four bodyguards have been arrested on charges of terrorism.  He is Sunni and became Speaker of Parliament in April 2006 and resigned in December 2008.  The New York Times declared open warfare on him and took to printing obvious lies about him while he headed the Parliament -- this included having him depressed and hiding out in his father's home when, in fact, he was in Jordan on a diplomatic trip.  There was no excuse for that disinformation campaign and at some point a public editor would be examing how those outright lies were published and why.

Abdul Rahman al-Rashed (Al Arabiya) has a column that attempts to explore Nouri's relationship with Iran.  Excerpt:

A pertinent question in the context is why al-Maliki should choose to have an alliance with Tehran. It is a little puzzling because Iran, which is besieged internationally, has nothing to offer in return to Iraq. On the contrary, Iran will transfer to Iraq its problems such as the sectarian and regional clashes and disputes with the West, apart from the risk of global sanctions if Iraq makes any economic collaboration with Tehran. The situation will return Iraq to square one reminiscent of Iraq’s woes during the Saddam regime.

In my view, al-Maliki’s drift toward Iran springs from his desire to win the next parliamentary elections. His every move points to that direction. He wants to amend the Iraq’s constitution so that he will not have to face any legal hurdle to be prime minister for the third time. He attempts to undermine the authority of the independent High Electoral Commission and to control all decision-making centers and key ministries under him. That is why he wants the ministries of defense, security, intelligence, finance, oil and the central bank. He has taken away powers of all who stood against him including Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi and Deputy Premier Saleh Al-Mutleq. 


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