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Iraq’s media crisis fueled by politics

Diana Moukalled

Published: Updated:

“You signify nothing in confronting the government.”

This is what Iraqi premier Nuri al-Maliki said few days ago in an address to al-Anbar protesters after he had previously described them as “bubbles.” The statement came after he had threatened those organizing the protests - which were mobilized weeks ago – saying that they must “end these protests before they are finished.”

The media only shows divisions but it is politics that cause them

Diana Moukalled

The same rhetoric has repeated itself over the past three years, reaching the point of monotony. Yet, despite this extent, this rhetoric still weighs heavy. Such a rhetoric, adopted by an official to address citizens he supposedly cares for, brings to mind recent memories such as the famous expressions made by late Libyan leader Moammar Qaddafi when he described Libyan protesters as “rats.”

Targeting the media

The public statements made by Maliki were accompanied by security activities, some of which were bloody and some of which targeted the media directly by shutting down ten Iraqi satellite channels accused of not being objective and of marketing strife. Of course the decision to shut down satellite channels or media outlets did not include any channel that sympathizes with the regime and that since day one of the protests accused protesters of treason and of being Baathists and al-Qaeda members. What further worsened the situation is how the official media outlets dealt with the footage of army members killed. The regime’s channels repeatedly broadcast footage of their corpses in a shocking manner in order to incite sectarian emotions, and they almost totally overlooked the murdered and injured protesters.

It is true that media outlets which supported the protesters also made accusations and triggered incitement by describing the army as “safavi” and by including several sectarian issues. But the authority’s transformation into a civil and sectarian party is more scandalous.

It is also true that shutting down ten satellite channels will not dry up the sources of tension. Summarizing the problem and blaming it on the media’s performance seemed to be a quick, repugnant, excuse that people who lack wisdom in their attempt to cover up for their violations usually resort to.

A repugnant attempt

In this case, limiting the problem and blaming it on an uncontrolled media is nothing more than a repugnant attempt to divert attention from the real gist of the current Iraqi crisis. Perhaps shutting down channels that oppose Maliki is a move that aims to compensate for not directly dealing with reality. The media only shows divisions but it is politics that cause them.

Simplifying the matter as one triggered by the media is a form of escape from the bigger facts that burden Iraq today.

It is true that no one is exonerated of the Iraqi blood that has been shed. It is also true that the opposition also resorted to a sectarian rhetoric. But the biggest responsibility falls on the Iraqi authority. When the authority becomes sectarian, acts as such and gets involved in regional confrontations for sectarian reasons, it becomes hard to control confrontations. The solution, in this case, is saying that the media is responsible for mobilization. Then, another move that falls within a sectarian context is carried out and media outlets are shut down. And therefore, more tension builds as a result.

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Diana Moukalled is the Web Editor at the Lebanon-based Future Television and was the Production & Programming Manager with at the channel. Previously, she worked there as Editor in Chief, Producer and Presenter of “Bilayan al Mujaradah,” a documentary that covers hot zones in the Arab world and elsewhere, News and war correspondent and Local news correspondent. She currently writes a regular column in AlSharq AlAwsat. She also wrote for Al-Hayat Newspaper and Al-Wasat Magazine, besides producing news bulletins and documentaries for Reuters TV. She can be found on Twitter: @dianamoukalled.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.