Jordan closes opposition Iraq TV channel, RSF says

Jordanian authorities arrested 14 Iraqi, Jordanian and Syrian journalists working in the station

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Jordan has shut down an Amman-based Iraqi opposition television channel critical of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and arrested journalists, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said Wednesday.

Authorities raided the Al-Abasiya satellite station Monday and arrested 14 Iraqi, Jordanian and Syrian journalists after Baghdad accused it of "inciting terrorism and sectarian conflicts."

"We have often reported that Nuri al-Maliki gags the media in Iraq but it seems he is not content with that and now wants to silence critical media based outside his country," RSF said.

"At the same time, by bowing to pressure... from Baghdad, the Jordanians have flouted their international obligations regarding media freedom and protection from arbitrary arrest," it said.

The organization, which claimed those arrested had been ordered detained for 14 days, called for their immediate release and the reopening of the TV station.

Jordan's Audiovisual Commission chief Amjad Qadi told AFP Al-Abasiya was broadcasting from Jordan illegally, without a license.

"It worked secretly from an apartment in Amman and broadcast only after midnight. When the authorities raided the apartment, they found things that have nothing to do with the media," he added, without elaborating.

Qadi said the case was sent to the state security court because "Al-Abasiya was inciting terrorism and affecting Jordan and other countries."

RSF said the Iraqi authorities have initiated legal action against several other Iraqi satellite television stations for allegedly inciting violence and sectarianism in their broadcasts from Jordan.

Al-Abasiya, which began broadcasting from Amman four years ago, "has been critical of both the Maliki administration and Iran's alleged meddling in the region," it added.

Jordan ranked 141st and Iraq 153rd on the 2014 RSF Press Freedom Index.

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