Press freedom reports

Iraq ranks 154th out of 168 in Reporters Without Borders’ 2006 Worldwide Press Freedom Index. The press situation in Iraq is, not surprisingly, characterized as "very serious."

According to Reporters Without Borders, at the end of 2007, at least 206 journalists and media assistants had been killed since the start of fighting in Iraq in March 2003.

Iraqi journalists also face restrictions and bans imposed by the Iraqi authorities. The government of prime minister Nuri al-Maliki has regularly threatened to shut down media outlets it blamed for 'inciting violence.' TV stations were accused of 'stirring up religious and ethnic passions' and banned from showing film of 'blood and killings' which officials said 'amplified the horror of the violence.'

The Interior Ministry shut down Sunni TV stations Al-Zawra and Salah-Eddin on November 5 for showing footage of demonstrators waving pictures of former President Saddam Hussein and protesting against his death sentence. They had still not been allowed back on the air by the end of the year.

The authorities briefly banned the media from parliament and the international press center in the Green Zone of Baghdad in November 2006. Live transmission of parliament was suspended after a stormy debate there about sectarian violence.

The Interior Ministry set up a monitoring unit to ask journalists and media outlets to print or broadcast corrections of ‘false news’ and to prosecute them if they refused. The measure also covers the pan-Arab satellite TV networks whose reporting of Iraq is closely watched.

The Baghdad bureau of the Saudi TV station Al-Arabiya was shut down for a month for alleged 'incitement to religious rivalry,' and the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera has still not been allowed to open a Baghdad office. At least thirty journalists were arrested by Iraqi security forces during 2006. Ahmad Ali Hamas al-Obaidi, of the radio station Dar Al Salam, which is linked to an Islamist party, was arrested at his Baghdad home on August 5. The U.S. army arrested eight media workers during the same period and at year-end four of them were still being held without a stated reason.