Freedom of expression worst days in Iraq
by Wamith Al-Kassab (Iraq)
February 27, 2011
A number of Iraqi journalists, who were detained during their coverage of the mass demonstrations that took place in central Baghdad’s al-Tahrir Square last Friday, will sue against the official and executive departments, which arrested them in a campaign against the journalists and the press, pointing out in a news conference in Baghdad on Saturday that "freedom of expression is facing one of its worst days in Iraq nowadays."
A number of journalists told the news conference that they were exposed for detention and beating during the Friday’s demonstration, decided to raise a judicial case against the executive authority and the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces (Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki), due to what they described as "violations against journalists during their coverage for the Friday demonstration."
"The detentions took place without an official decision and without the announcement by the military party that decided to arrest them, whilst some of them were beaten during their detention and investigation," they said.
The Writer, Hadi al-Mahdi, told the news conference that his slogan during the demonstration had been concentrating on the peaceful nature of the demonstration, along with confirmation for reforming the system and not the downfall of the regime, but despite that, he said he was arrested and beaten.
Mahdi spoke in detail about his exposure, together with his colleagues, for detention and torture, under charges that he had been a member of Iraq’s former ruling Baath Party, whilst he had been an immigrant in Denmark, for which he escaped away from the Baathist regime.
Journalist Saif al-Khayat told the news conference he was also tortured, whilst he was about to get crashed by a police car, when he tried to help one of the wounded demonstrators, whilst Journalist, Husam al-Sarai, said he was arrested together with three of his colleagues, expressing fear that Iraq might change into "a police state."
Meanwhile, the news conference listened to a statement by the journalists, who described the campaign against reporters as "violation for the freedom of expression, guaranteed by the Iraqi Constitution, which reiterated that "the freedom of expression in Iraq is facing one of its worst days."
The statement pointed out that "the incidents that took place during Feb.
25th and the days that preceded it, have discovered the fact that the political authorities have treated the demonstrations in such a cruel security way, whilst a statement by Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, described the Friday demonstration a day before its scheduled time as "having been pushed by al-Qaeda, the Baath and terrorist forces."
"The press had been a basic target for a campaign against freedoms, that was preceded by assaults before Feb.
25th, against a number of press institutions, confiscation of their equipments and preventing their live television coverage for the demonstrations, along with a campain of detentions against the journalists, who covered the demonstration," the statement said.
It said that "a number of Hummer military vehicles had stopped in front of a restaurant in Baghdad’s Karrada area, about 05:00 pm on Feb.
25th, out of which a number of army men of Intelligence Division 11, entered the restaurant and began to insult and beat by hands, feet and rifles, on four young reporters, who were taking their meal, and then they dragged them into the Hummers, drove them to the Division’s HQ, where they were tortured and forced to sign papers, denying their torture and promising not to share in any 'mob acts.’
"The attacks aim at undermining the freedom of expression in general, and the press and journalists in special, thing that represents a major blow for one of the platforms of democracy, because the freedom of expression is the main platform for all principles, stemming from democracy," the statement said.
In conclusion, the statement quoted the journalists, "concerned with the rights of people," as asking: "If lights have protected us a little bit; how about those people, who have nobody, but God Almighty?, pointing out that "this is the first time in Iraq’s modern history that people take to the streets in a "festival reflecting the freedom of expression, that was poisoned by the Iraqi authorities that treated it with harsh charges and horrible police measures."
To see a video of the attacks against media in the demonstrations watch the link,the camera man shouts: I am press, press, press, as they beat him.