Bringing Democracy to the Middle East

Iraq shuts TV channel for inciting sectarianism
01 Jan 2007 18:04:23 GMT
By Claudia Parsons

BAGHDAD, Jan 1 (Reuters) – The Iraqi government ordered the closure of a popular independent television channel on Monday for inciting sectarianism, two days after the hanging of Saddam Hussein sparked anger among his fellow Sunni Arabs.

Sharkiya is owned by a London-based Iraqi businessman and says it takes an independent editorial line, though many viewers see it as leaning toward the minority Sunni Arab viewpoint.

The channel was still showing programming on Monday, as it broadcasts from Dubai, and it was not immediately clear what impact the government’s order would have.

Interior Ministry spokesman Brigadier Abdul Karim Khalaf said the government had ordered the channel to close indefinitely.

“We have warned them many times not to broadcast any false news that would increase tension in Iraq,” Khalaf told Reuters, declining to specify which particular reports were false.

The order comes two days after Saddam’s execution for crimes against humanity over the killing of Shi’ite Muslims.

The execution, which was rushed through by Iraq’s Shi’ite-led government at the start of a religious holiday, and video of the hanging that showed Shi’ite officials taunting Saddam before his death, have raised fears of a backlash.

Asked if the move was prompted by Sharkiya’s coverage of the execution, Khalaf said: “In the last three days if you watch their channel you can see they are leading people to violence and increasing the sectarian tension.”

A well-known news reader on the channel has been wearing black mourning clothes for the past two days.

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