Banned stations will face legal action if they return to work
On Tuesday, the UN entreated Iraqi authorities to reconsider their decision to suspend ten television licences.
Martin Kobler, the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Iraq, said: \"Press freedom
is a fundamental pillar of democracy, one that the United Nations takes very seriously.\"
Iraq\'s Communication and Media Commission (CMC) revoked operating licences for Al Jazeera and nine other satellite channels on April 28. The CMC blamed the stations for exacerbating sectarian tensions after a deadly government crackdown on a protest camp in Hawija.
A statement published on the CMC website accused broadcasters of exaggerating reports, airing \"clear calls for disorder\" and provoking \"retaliatory criminal attacks against security forces.\" CMC officials also alleged that the television channels were advocating \"banned terrorist organisations who committed crimes against Iraqi people.\"
Authorities declared that the banned stations will face legal action should they return to work on Iraqi territory.
Kobler said: \"This decision comes at a critical time for Iraq. 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.\"
The Director of the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) Office in Iraq, Louise Haxthausen, advised Iraqi authorities to recognise that suspending TV licences \"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.\"
Haxthausen said: \"We request the Iraqi authorities to revise the decision carefully and quickly.\"
The recent upsurge of violence in Iraq followed more than four months of Sunni Muslim demonstrations against Prime Minister Nour Al-Maliki\'s Shia-dominated government. Armed skirmishes with security forces have proliferated in the wake of the Hawija incident, together with bombardments in Sunni and Shiite areas.