Iraqi journalists protest proposed restrictions on freedom of expression
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Iraqi writers and media workers demonstrated in Baghdad today against proposed legislation they say would allow the government to censor the media and ban certain websites. Proponents of the legislation say it establishes a number of specific protections for media workers, but press freedom groups argue the rules could allow the government to silence outlets that publish or broadcast controversial material.
FSRN spoke to an Iraqi reporter by cell phone today for some on-the-ground perspective about press freedoms. In order to speak freely, the journalist asked to only be identified as Mohammed. He has worked with foreign media since 2003. Mohammed says intimidation and insecurity are part of the job.
"Intimidation has always been part of the process...and working for foreign media can easily get me death by many armed groups, either for political or simply for money reasons, financial reasons."
Since the 2003 invasion, Iraq has been by far the world's deadliest country for journalists. The Committee to Protect Journalists has documented the deaths of 190 journalists and media workers since March 2003. While the level of violence has decreased in the past couple of years, Mohammed says the level of overall security is still less than what it was before the fall of Saddam Hussein.
"We have a saying in Iraq that people who've experienced death will be happy to only have a fever. It's much easier than death. So right now, we're happy with the fever we have."
Mohammad began working in media as a translator for reporters in 2003. He says that even though Iraqi reporters are often careful not to cross certain lines on sensitive issues of sectarianism and corruption, that the press is able to be far more critical of government now than under Saddam.
"We've suffered a lot due to the invasion. We managed to gain only one thing; which is freedom of expression...and I don't know if it's worth it or not at all. However, it's very sad to see this unique gain being lost gradually as our freedom of expression is decreased or gets oppressed gradually."
Mohammed is a reporter working with Western media in Iraq. He spoke to FSRN by cell phone and under condition of anonymity.