By Afrah Shawqi : Middle East newspaper Baghdad
Iraqi journalists stressed on the importance of respecting their freedom to express their opinions and to exercise their freedoms of press, as approved by the Iraqi Constitution. Iraqi government have to provide adequate protection for media workers, and stop interfering the work of independent media and . The government Publishing Court, restricted a lot of freedoms, as the number of claims it issued in 2013, about 700 suit, mostly against journalists and publishers, as well as the pressures of the inherited laws from the former regime.
The second Festival of the Iraqi Press was organized in Baghdad by Tareek al-Shaab’ (People’s path ) newspaper for the 6-7 March 2014. About 25 newspaper and publishing house, have joined the event in Abu Nawas gardens in the center of the Iraqi capital Baghdad. They stressed on the importance of providing adequate protection for journalists, and modify the terms of the laws, as there are more than 18 articles on issues of publishing and media in the Iraqi Penal Code, mostly criminalizes any journalist or writer shows his views in media outlets, and the mitigation of the unfair legal practices against the media, which is very for from the international standards of the freedom of opinion and expression laws.
The Journalist Yasser Al-Salem, a member of the Press Freedom Advocacy Association in Iraq, stressed that «press freedoms in the country began to erode slowly, and there is a significant decline in the freedom of the press, and media was threatened and beaten and in broad daylight by armed groups, and some shut down because they only differ with the government speech».He attributed the reason for this is because the freedom is still linked to the laws inherited from the former regime which is still active and applied till now, and he quoted that the Court of media and publication issued in 2013, about 700 lawsuit mostly brought against journalists and publishers.
And on the laws enacted to ensure adequate protection for the media, he said, «no law legislate for the protection of the media after 2003, except for the law of the rights of journalists, which included physical rights which we never touched yet, while keeping the hands of government authorities free to restrict freedom of the media, which contributed to the decline in roof of freedoms more than before».
The journalist Adnan Al-Fadhli from “Albaina Aljadeeda” newspaper said that «there is a tendency for revitalizing the role and place of the paper press by the media circles, in addition to the importance of challenging the restrictions on the freedom of journalism in Iraq, through the concerted media with each other and adoption of new approaches toward a free press despite their different of beliefs and mission of the media.
Dr. Raed Fahmi, a member of the Political Bureau of the Iraqi Communist Party, said while attending the second annual press festival «the celebrations are not the experience of Iraqis only, there are many Arab and international annual festivals, and through the festival of “peoples’ way newspaper” aims to uphold the principle of plurality, diversity and accept the culture of the other and dialogue culture that serves to support freedom of expression in the country».
And on demise of the role of the printed press in Iraq, he said, «It is recession and not extinction, and this is happening in other countries, and is known globally, but newspapers can be smart and be able to re-distribute the methods of addressing topics and events».About the level of press freedom in the country, he said, «We still have an important guarantor in the articles of the Iraqi Constitution, it is the biggest gain for us despite the fact that the decision-maker and the executive branch begins to exercise his powers in restricting the press freedoms when losing patience with criticism journalist, which are always unsuccessful attempts when faced with the position based on the constitutional rights», adding «we still look with unease to drive government harassment of newspapers issued in Baghdad, the latest of what happened from the closure and prevent printing an important newspaper which is the Iraqi edition of the (Middle East) newspaper, with unjustified arguments, and we are in solidarity with it to be launched again».
And on the roof of freedoms in the country, he said «we enjoyed no freedoms roof throughout our lives in Iraq, there are many restrictions on press despite the provisions of the constitution».
In turn, the media Abeer Kanani confirmed that the festival is a celebration of the Iraqi press and a nice opportunity to show all the kinds of newspapers in the country, and to strengthen the position of the printed paper because it has a special charm that no websites or satellite Chanel can compensate.
The Journalistic Freedoms Observatory in Iraq, announced that the journalist sector in Iraq gave 274 martyrs in the ranks of actors in the media field since the beginning of the U.S. invasion in 2003, 164 of them were killed while performing their duties, noting that at least 11 journalists were killed during the last four months, in total impunity.