The United Nations today urged Iraq’s Communication and Media Commission to reconsider its decision to suspend the licenses of several television stations, while stressing the importance of ensuring press freedom in the country.
“Press freedom is a fundamental pillar of democracy, one that the United Nations takes very seriously,” said Martin Kobler, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and head of the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI).
Iraqi authorities reportedly suspended the licences of 10 satellite channels because of a rise in sectarian unrest that has killed over 170 people in less than a week. Al-Jazeera TV and Sharqiya are among the channels accused of ‘inciting violence’, according to media reports.
“This decision comes at a critical time for Iraq,” Mr. Kobler added in a news release. “I urge the Commission to fully respect its commitment to press freedom and at the same time I urge all media to exercise integrity and professional ethics in their daily work.”
Louise Haxthausen, the Director of the UN Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Office in Iraq, urged the authorities to consider that the measures “might have adverse effects on stability efforts, as responsible media have a vital role to play in ensuring dialogue based on freedom of expression as a means to resolve differences.”
“We request the Iraqi authorities to revise the decision carefully and quickly,” said Ms. Haxthausen.