On 21 September, the Fallujah Council for Social Cohesion together with the Freedom of Expression masar (path) held a panel discussion to explore issues surrounding the reality of freedom of expression and public freedoms in Anbar governorate after the liberation. The panel gathered in Ramadi and participants included a number of activists, academics, officials and members of the Anbar governorate Council, as well as some members of the Freedom of Expression masar of the Iraqi Social Forum.
The session reviewed issues of public freedoms, especially the freedom of expression, due to its importance in society given the current situation in the country. The panelists began with the right to express one’s opinions openly and without fear of abuse. They noted the detention of many young people by government agencies for expressing their views on social media sites. The audience responded with questions about the legal reasons that give the government the power to do this, and also expressed their worries about the law on cybercrime, which is a tool used to muzzle ideas.
In the second part of the discussion, panelists considered public freedoms again, but this time with special focus on how they have been undermined by unjust arrests, for instance, for wearing the wrong clothing.
The session concluded with a number of recommendations, most notably:
- to create a democratic space for young people to express opinions freely and openly;
- to create a platform for dialogue, discussion and deliberation that will increase the involvement of civil society in the management of the province;
- to address academics in universities and try to expand their role outside the universities in matters that concern the wider community;
- to create channels of media communication in government institutions and to develop the mechanisms through which they work;
- to activate the so-called ‘complaints boxes’ intended to be a means for citizens to communicate their appeals and issues to government officials;
- to continue to hold meetings and seminars with officials on the subject of public freedoms and other topics.
The Fallujah Council for Social Cohesion is one of the councils that works in four Iraqi governorates (Sulaymaniyah-Baghdad-Fallujah-Maysan). The Council organized this workshop in cooperation with Tammuz Organization, Information Center, Iraqi Civil Society Solidarity Initiative and the Italian organization, Un Ponte Per… all within the framework of the Iraqi Social Forum. Extra support is provided by the EU project; ‘Mesopotamia for Democratic Governance and Peaceful Coexistence in Iraq’.
Iraqi Social Forum