Friday, July 4, 2014
Iraq recently declared a state of emergency, and according to Human Rights Watch, “under international law… the government may restrict freedom of expression only to the extent strictly necessary for the exigencies of the situation.” The government has banned all newspapers, Internet sites, and broadcast stations from promoting anti-government sentiments. Those that do not comply with the new regulations face losing their licenses and getting shut down. Officials have also been authorized to monitor emails and other forms of electronic communication, violating civilians’ right to privacy.
There is, as always, a grey area. In some cases, it seems as though the government might be justified. They claim that some media sources are sympathetic to terrorists, and play a role in promoting violence in Iraq. While this may be true for some media sources, the government has shut down others, such as the radio station Al-Baghdadiyya, that were primarily promoting peace. The station has been critical of the Iraqi government, and was therefore targeted and closed. “The Iraqi government has also taken steps to close some news and social media websites, and in some places has tried to block the Internet completely,” a Human Rights Watch reporter says. This is a direct violation of the freedom of expression and freedom of the press. While I can understand the need to control pro-terrorist media because it poses a direct threat to the well-being of the citizens, it is completely outside the government’s rights to shut down any media sources that criticize the government. It is also unnecessary for the government to try and block social media. According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, people have freedom of expression. The fact that the Iraqi government is trying to deprive its citizens of this fundamental right is an indicator of corruption, and should be brought to international attention immediately.
It is important for the international community to protect citizens’ rights in countries where their government does not. While I can appreciate Iraq’s current situation, it is inexcusable for a government to silence dissenters and cut off its citizens from the outside world. The only way a country can grow is for there to be room for criticisms. Only when people have a voice and respect the voices of others can a nation actually prosper.