Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Two steps forward...

In defense of the current state of affairs in Iraq one can always claim that at least the Iraqi people are better off now than when they lived under Saddam. However, as the New York Times recently reported, not much has changed for Iraqi journalists.

As if the threat of violence from militias wasn’t enough -130 have been killed since the 2003 invasion- the Iraqi government recently enacted a new set of laws criminalizing speech that ridicules the government or its officials. These new laws, some drawn verbatim from Saddam’s penal code, have been used to charge at least a dozen Iraqi journalists in the past year. The punishment for publicly insulting a government or public official can be up to 7 years in prison. In addition to this government crackdown, dozens of journalists have been kidnapped by criminal gangs or detained by the US military.

There is some silver lining to this whole story. The article goes on to say that despite these threats, Iraqi journalists have “achieved a new level of professionalism by working closely with Western journalists …[and] have become increasingly aggressive… Despite the danger, Falah al-Mishaal, the editor of Al Sabah, the government-run newspaper in Baghdad, said he enjoyed his job now because he felt like a real journalist. ‘Now, we are free,” he said in an interview in late July. “We can write whatever we want.’” But it may just get them killed or incarcerated.

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