Iraqi Government Applies Pressure to Journalists

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As many as 130 journalists have been killed in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion of 2003 — the vast majority of them Iraqis. Iraqi journalists are under attack from both Sunni and Shiite extremists. And the U.S. military has arrested and detained some for months at a time.

Now the Iraqi government is stepping up pressure on the country's journalists, accusing them of inciting violence.

In Iraq, official corruption is on the increase, as is reporting on it. In response, the government is stepping up its pressure on reporters. Under a broad set of laws criminalizing speech that ridicules the government, roughly a dozen iraqi journalists have been charged with offending public officials in the past year.

The authorities in Iraqi Kurdistan have been the toughest, sentencing one journalist to 30 years for insulting the Kurdish provincial leader. It was only when international human rights groups protested that the sentence was reduced.

And at the Iraqi parliament, lawmakers have repeatedly cut off live broadcasts of proceedings when they have become particularly acrimonious, declaring that the public should not see.

In addition, dozens of Iraqi jouranlists have been kudnapped by criminal gangs or detained by the American military on the suspicion that they are helping Sunni insurgents. Bilal Hussein, an Associated Press photographer, has been held in American custody, without charges, for almost 6 months.

Kathleen Carroll, an AP executive editor, says, "These cases raise questions about how close an iraqi reporter can get to insurgents without being considered the enemy."

She says the AP has carried out its own investigation, reviewing all of Bilal Hussein's work.

"Our review found nothing to make us concerned at all about his work or to lead us to believe he was anything other than a journalist doing his job."



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