Iraq has suspended the license of an American satellite channel after it aired a report insulting the Arab country’s religious institutions.
Iraq’s media commission closed the local offices of the US-based Alhurra channel on Monday for three months, saying it found the report lacking professionalism, balance, and reliable evidence.
“The program failed to uphold the principles of media professionalism,” a statement from the Communications and Media Commission (CMC) said, accusing the reporters of using anonymous sources to defame and to cause moral injury.
The CMC decision said in addition to the three-month suspension, Alhurra must halt all activities until “they correct their position” and must issue a formal apology.
“These steps are tantamount to a final warning to the station, and a tougher punishment will be taken in case this offence is repeated,” the statement said.
Alhurra said it would issue a statement shortly.
Alhurra–a broadcaster funded by the US Agency for Global Media which maintains a bureau in Baghdad– had unilaterally accused Iraq’s religious institutions of “corruption” in an across-the-board affront seemingly aimed at the country’s religious authorities and entire religious organizations.
Parliament Speaker Mohamed al-Halbousi condemned the report, underscoring the religious figures and entities’ significant role in preserving national and social integrity, according to Iraq’s al-Sumariah television network.
The Victory Alliance political coalition, established by former prime minister Haider al-Abadi, supported the country’s clergy and urged media outlets to rather “speak out the truth” and fulfill their duties free of malicious intents.
Iraq’s pro-government Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) paramilitaries, which is commonly known by the Arabic name Hashd al-Sha’abi, also condemned the move.
The Fatah Alliance political coalition, where the PMU is a component, called for legal action against the channel, while its fellow political grouping of the National Wisdom Movement, which is led by senior cleric Ammar al-Hakim, asked the country’s Communications and Media Commission to call the channel to account and close down its Iraq offices.
The United States and its affiliates and nationals have, in the past, run afoul of the country’s public and political spheres on countless occasions. They have incurred nationwide outrage through either their direct and indirect contribution to violence on the ground or other instances of unlawful behavior.