Press Freedom Virtually Nonexistent In Bush's "Democratic" Iraq
President Bush is always quick to use code words such as "democracy" or "democratic" to describe the government of Iraq. Yet an important leg of freedom in any democratic society is the freedom of the press. However in Iraq, this press freedom is under very heavy assault by both the Iraqi government and the American military CENTCOM.
Yesterday, one of the few independently owned television station not run by the Iraqi government was shut down because of the very slim evidence that a news reporter who reported the story of the execution of Saddam Hussein wore a black colored suit and this was thought to show sympathy for Saddam Hussein or the Sunni minority. The government's claim that this meaningless choice of simply a suit color proves promotion of "violence" is a good example of the thin reasons the government uses to suppress press freedom in Iraq.
Iraq is quickly moving towards a Shiite dominated totalitarian state with the Shiite militia group dominated Interior Ministry often used as the muscle to suppress freedom of the press in Iraq. Yesterday, this same Shiite militia group dominated government organization issued a misleading report claiming just 12,000 Iraqis lost their lives in Iraq in 2006. However, even James Baker of the Iraqi Study Group had reported that the real figure is about 3,700 persons a month who lose their lives in Iraq, and that both the Iraqi government and CENTCOM deliberately understate the actual number of violent incidents in Iraq each day, only claiming about 96 incidents a day, when about 1,100 violent incidents a day actually take place. The number of persons wounded in these incidents far exceed any deaths, and flood both Iraqi and American military hospitals with victims each and every day in Iraq.
During the recent car bombings in the massive Sadr City Shiite slim area that killed or wounded over 400 persons, there was a Shiite mob retailiation attack at a Sunni Mosque that resulted in six Sunni worshippers murdered and set afire. There was a quick effort by both CENTCOM and the Iraqi government Shiite militia group controlled Interior Ministry to claim that this event never happened. AP produced a number of credible witnesses to the event including an Iraqi medical doctor, a bookstore owner and a grocery store owner, however some American right wing websites sought to falsely discredit the AP story despite physical damage to the Sunni Mosque including the destruction of the front doors and one wall by evidence of explosive blast damage.
Following the report of the Shiite mob attack on the six Sunni worshippers, a spokesman for the Iraqi Interior Ministry threatened the Iraqi press in a statement to be more "responsible" or face unspecified conseqences. This Shiite militia group dominated government organization is the most feared of any in Iraqi government, though to be responsible for planning kidnappings and murders of college professors and other teachers, and implicated in running torture chambers for political prisoners of the Shiite dominated government. Any threatening statement from this much feared government organization is certain to have a chiilling effect on reporters and press freedom in Iraq.
The kidnappings and murders of those in education which are thought to be directed from the government Interior Ministry, seem to be inspired by the Shiite religious clerics who oppose any who propose a more secular and modern Iraqi society. Within a short time, Iraq will soon represent either Iran or the former Taliban rule of Afghanistan, with all political life under the heavy hand of Shiite religious leaders like the the clerics Ali al-Sistani or Muqtada al-Sadr. In fact, it is the influence of the cleric Ali al-Sistanti which has basicly obstructed Shiite members of the parliament from forming a more cooperative unity government with the Sunni members. Without this unity government, the violence problems in Iraq can never really be brought under reasonable control.
But press freedom suppression is not only common near Bagdad. In the much safer Northern Kurdish region, two reporters were arrested and imprisoned just this year in May for reporting stories that were not liked by the local government officials. Reporting cases of theft or corruption by government officials could result in arrest and imprisonment at the very least, or kidnaping, torture and execution by a militia group members operating within local police stations at the very worst. British forces in Southern Iraq, had to free political prisoners and other detainees from a police station used as a torture chamber by police militia group members, then destroy the building just last week. Some police stations not controlled by militia group members have been overrun by Shiite armed mobs. Even in Bagdad, the secular democratically elected mayor was removed in a coup by at least 100 armed members of the Shiite Badr Brigade and replaced by a member of this militia organization.
Control and "management" of the Iraq press was always a main goal of the American military and the American run Coalition Provisional Authority as well. CPA head, Paul Bremer was quick to issue CPA ORDER NUMBER 14 back in June of 2003 that would imprison any Iraqi media member who was thought to incite antiAmerican incidents with negative press reports about the occupation. Indeed there were some false reports of American soldiers using night vision glases being used to undress Iraqi women and some false American soldier rape of Iraqi women stories published in a few isolated cases, but overall the intent of the CPA ORDER NUMBER 14 was control of the Iraqi media only to publish stories that benefited the American occupation, and not concerned with accurate reporting of the news from Iraq.
The American military even went as far as once hiring an intelligence and media management organization based in Washington D.C. at a cost of $100 million dollars, The Lincoln Group, to plant positive stories in the Iraqi press newspapers. This "media management" organization actually paid Iraqi newspapers to run "positive" stories that were written by Pentagon writers. The U.S. considered "psychological operations" so important in Iraq, that a military unit known as the "Information Operations Task Force" is given just as much importance as any major U.S. military leadership or planning organization.
Other than holding elections that are dominated by politicians aligned with the Shiite cleric Ali al-Sistani or by the those associated with the Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, or feared Shiite miltia groups such as Badr and Wolf Brigades, there is very little evidence that Iraq is a "democratic nation" in any sense that most Americans think of democracy. Iraq is for the most part, becoming a brutal theocractic state, with the Shiite brand of Islam in majority philosophical control of the parliament, and using brutal militia groups to suppress both press freedom or those in education who promote ideas seen as too secular by the Shiite religious clerics.
Any reference to Iraq being a "democratic" state as used by President Bush must be viewed as purely political propaganda to help the continued selling of this war to the American public in the light of all the evidence that Iraq is hardly a "democracy" or allows genuine freedom of the press or education. Iraq is quickly becoming a Shiite theocracy, with no place for other faiths or freedoms.