CAMPAIGN TO SUPPORT FREEDOM OF THE PRESS AND FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION IN IRAQ
The Iraqi Civil Society Solidarity Initiative (ICSSI) urges you to support the lawsuit before the Iraqi Federal Court to abolish the so-called “Journalists’ Rights Law” recently passed by the Iraqi parliament. This law explicitly violates articles 13, 14, 38 and 46 of the Iraqi Constitution, which protect freedom of the press and freedom of expression.
The law is incompatible with Iraq’s international obligations to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and both signed by the Iraqi State. It especially fails to respect namely art. 19 of theInternational Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). In General comment No. 34 that Human Rights Committee did about Article 19: Freedoms of opinion and expression” it explain that: Freedom of opinion and freedom of expression are indispensable conditions for the full development of the person. They are essential for any society. They constitute the foundation stone for every free and democratic society. The two freedoms are closely related, with freedom of expression providing the vehicle for the exchange and development of opinions”, “Freedom of expression is a necessary condition for the realization of the principles of transparency and accountability that are, in turn, essential for the promotion and protection of human rights.”
The same general comment explains that : The obligation to respect freedoms of opinion and expression is binding on every State party as a whole. All branches of the State (executive, legislative and judicial) and other public or governmental authorities, at whatever level – national, regional or local – are in a position to engage the responsibility of the State party. Such responsibility may also be incurred by a State party under some circumstances in respect of acts of semi-State entities. The obligation also requires States parties to ensure that persons are protected from any acts by private persons or entities that would impair the enjoyment of the freedoms of opinion and expression to the extent that these Covenant rights are amenable to application between private persons or entities”
Finally and about media it say “A free, uncensored and unhindered press or other media is essential in any society to ensure freedom of opinion and expression and the enjoyment of other Covenant rights. It constitutes one of the cornerstones of a democratic society. The Covenant embraces a right whereby the media may receive information on the basis of which it can carry out its function. The free communication of information and ideas about public and political issues between citizens, candidates and elected representatives is essential. This implies a free press and other media able to comment on public issues without censorship or restraint and to inform public opinion. The public also has a corresponding right to receive media output”
The law is defining media organization by “ each organization working in media or press and registered according to law” this is serious limit that such organization will have to face because the law mentioned in this article is not defined, actually there are no specific registration law for media organization in iraq. Which means media organizations above all internet newspapers blogs and other forms of new media are threat to be illegal by this article.
Generally the new law is giving legitimacy to laws issued before 2003 and before writing the constitutions for example, In article number 4: the new law says that “ the journalist has the right to get non prohibitedinformation and data and to publish them according to limits set by the law”
The first problem we face here is that it is Not clear who has the right to prohibited the publication of this or that information or data , if it’s the government or any of its functions, and on which bases ? moreover it’s also not clear if this prohibition can include recourses in the internet, published by any state or entity.
The second problem is that limits set by law includes all laws that are still valid, many laws are against freedoms and where issued in the years of dictatorship and before writing the constitution, including for example the so called “ publishing crimes law” which was denounced by a previous call form ICSSI , under “publishing crimes articles” journalists can be punished with very severe measures for undefined crimes related to publishing false or unprovable information: besides being forced to pay disproportionate fines, their newspapers can be closed temporarily and their license can be withdrawn.
The first and second problems are also seen for article number 5 when it say “ the journalists have the right to do comments within the limits set by the law”. the same also for article 6 which say” the journalist have the right to get information, reports and official data unless publishing them is affecting the public order and against law.
The law also compromises the constitutionally guaranteed principle of equal citizenship, by conferring illegal and illegitimate benefits and privileges on journalists. Moreover it describes the role of the journalist as working to promote the acts of government authorities, thereby totally undermining public confidence in the media.
A lawsuit to repeal the “Journalists’ Rights Law” has been organized by The Society for Defending Press Freedom, an Iraqi Non-governmental Organisation, and is supported by many Iraqi journalists and media activists. The court based at the green zone in Baghdad and activists have to enter there the 30th to attend the session.
We are collecting signatures from supporters both inside and outside of Iraq to present to Mr. Midhat Almahmud, Chairman of the Iraqi Federal Supreme Court, urging him to compel the Iraqi parliament to undertake the procedures necessary to end these violations of the Iraqi Constitution and international law. the court has defined the 30th of this month as the date for this lawsuit.
Please sign the petition to Mr. Midhat Almahmud:
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