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Iraqi Journalists Lead Protest Against Stricter Media Rules

An Iraqi soldier stands guard as Iraqi journalists rally in Baghdad on August 14
An Iraqi soldier stands guard as Iraqi journalists rally in Baghdad on August 14
A few hundred journalists, academics, bookshop owners, human rights activists, and parliamentarians have demonstrated in central Baghdad to protest moves by the government to muzzle freedom of expression, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq (RFI) reports.

A draft media law that would tighten restrictions on websites is being considered by the government to send to parliament.

Addressing a gathering held at Al-Mutanabi Street, which is famous for its many old bookshops, journalist Imad al-Khafaji appealed to the government to scrap plans to block some websites and revive Saddam Hussein-era book-censorship rules, underlining that "freedom of speech and expression is a constitutional right."

Al-Khafaji said that "this demonstration is in support of the bookshop owner who used to tremble on this very street that what he sold might not please the regime but now boasts that in the new Iraq even Saddam Hussein's books are freely peddled without fear of another dictator returning."

Tawfiq al-Timimi, a journalist at the protest, told RFI that the demonstration puts politicians on notice that "Iraq's journalists will not take any restrictions on free expression lying down."

Poet and journalist Husam al-Sarray told RFI that "the protest sends a strong message to the government that there is no going back, we have won our freedom and will not let go ever again."

Taking part in the August 14 protest were members of parliament, including Sabah al-Saadi, chairman of the parliament's anticorruption committee, who told journalists that "the press, the media as a whole, and freedom of expression are under attack and as lawmakers we have a responsibility to side with free, objective, and unfettered media."