Thursday, June 23, 2011

Government official raises US$7 m claim against Baghdad newspaper


Erbil, June 22 (AKnews) - Spokesman for the Baghdad Operations Command (BOC  has filed a lawsuit against a Baghdad-based daily newspaper al-Mada demanding US$7 million on charges of libel.

Qassim atta, qasm ataQassim Atta, spokesman of Baghdad Operations Command (BOC) - a security body reporting directly to the Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki - has raised the claim against the al-Mada's CEO Fakhri Karim and three other staff members of the daily after it published a series of articles, columns and that criticized the way the security forces and government authorities treated protesters.

Baghdad witnessed protests earlier this month as a 100-day period, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki had set for his minister to improve performance, expired. The protesters called on Maliki to leave the country because the performance of the government was poor.

Clashes broke out between the protesters and pro-Maliki demonstrators who were said to have been paid by Maliki to chant pro-Maliki slogans.

Al-Mada newspaper accused the authorities of trying to counter anti-government protests by misleading media coverage. In some of the articles published by the newspaper, Atta has been particularly criticized for releasing in accurate information and contradictory comments.

The lawsuit has been criticized by press freedom groups saying the authorities want to silence the media and restrict press freedom.

An Iraqi press freedom group, Society for Defending Press Freedom (SDPF), said in a statement the lawsuit was "unreasonable" and aimed at restricting press freedom by "muzzling the media"

Al-Mada newspaper chief editor Ali al-Hussein said they had received on Monday the official writ from the court indicating that Atta had demanding a compensation of 8 billion Iraqi Dinars (about US$7 million)

"The association considers that the insistence of government officials to exploit the articles of criminal defamation, inherited from the previous era (former Iraqi regime) to raise unfair and illogical lawsuits against journalists and media," the statement read.

The groups went on to say the lawsuit does not only threaten press freedom "gained after 2003 but revokes it especially since such articles prevent criticizing any government employee"

SDPF called on the federal court to scrap those articles in the journalism law that have been "inherited" from the former they "contradict the constitution especially that the article 13 of the constitution clearly states that no legal provision can be implemented that does not comply with the constitution"

By Raber Y. Aziz (AKnews)

22/06/2011 18:42