Iraqi media regulator suspends 10 TV stations ‘for promoting sectarianism’

Al-Jazeera and leading Iraqi station Sharqiya among channels targeted

A security guard walks outside the al-Jazeera building in Baghdad yesterday. Iraq has suspended the licences of it  and nine other television channels. Photograph:  Reuters/Mohammed Ameen

A security guard walks outside the al-Jazeera building in Baghdad yesterday. Iraq has suspended the licences of it and nine other television channels. Photograph: Reuters/Mohammed Ameen

Mon, Apr 29, 2013, 06:00

Iraq’s media regulator has suspended the operations of 10 satellite television channels for “promoting sectarianism” after five days of clashes that have killed at least 215 people.

Media commission spokesman Mujahid Abu-al Hail said the suspended channels would have to halt work in Iraq.

Among the channels targeted were Qatar-owned al-Jazeera and Sharqiya, a leading Iraqi station, as well as small Sunni channels. Sunni broadcasters complained that Shia broadcasters who had attacked Sunni politicians and actions had not been touched.

The prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, has said that sectarian strife resumed in Iraq because of spillover from “another place in this region”, a reference to Syria.

He called on anti-government protesters to “expel the criminals who targeted Iraqi army and police forces” after five soldiers had been killed near Ramadi, a restive city west of Baghdad.

The names of three suspects, reportedly members of al-Qaeda, have been given to the police but the men have not been turned over, although local tribal leaders have said they are prepared to fight al-Qaeda as they did during 2006-07.

Four months of protests escalated into fighting between security forces and Sunnis condemning discrimination by the Shia fundamentalist government after troops killed 53 while dismantling a peaceful camp at the town of Hawijah, north of Baghdad.

Sunnis have called for Mr Maliki’s resignation and charged his security forces with wrongfully accusing members of their community with terrorism and Baath party membership.