Iraq to close nine TV stations for ‘inciting violence’

Iraq to close nine TV stations for ‘inciting violence’
Iraqi security forces clash with demonstrators in Baghdad on Saturday. (Reuters)
Updated 24 November 2019

Iraq to close nine TV stations for ‘inciting violence’

Iraq to close nine TV stations for ‘inciting violence’
  • Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi and his allies believe that some media outlets are inciting the protesters
  • Dijla, Sharqiya, Al-Arabiya, Al-Hadath and Alhurra Iraq were among the stations that had to close their offices in Iraq

BAGHDAD: The Iraqi Communications and Media Commission (CMC) has decided to warn five TV channels, and close nine, for “violating articles of media licensing regulations,” and “publishing content inciting violence” during coverage of demonstrations, observers told Arab News on Saturday.

Baghdad and nine southern Shiite-dominated provinces have witnessed repeated anti-government demonstrations since Oct. 1. More than 350 demonstrators have been killed and about 16,000 others injured, after security forces began to use live bullets and tear gas canisters.
Local and foreign media have played a pivotal role in documenting and exposing abuses suffered by demonstrators, despite authorities blocking the internet for two weeks in Baghdad and several southern governorates. Social media platforms have also been censored for more than a month.
Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi and his allies believe that some media outlets “are working to sustain the momentum of the demonstrations and incite demonstrators against the government.” The overthrow of the government and the holding of early national parliamentary elections preceded by the changing electoral law, is at the top of the list of demands from demonstrators.
The CMC is the organization responsible for regulating the media and communications in Iraq. It was established in 2004 and, according to the Iraqi constitution, is an independent body not affiliated with the government. However, the majority of its decisions “indicate the full dependence of the government” observers have said.
According to sources, the CMC forced internet and mobile companies to disconnect services to their customers in protest-hit areas and block social networks.
The latest CMC decision saw the closure of the nine local and Arabic TV stations and warnings given to five others “for violating the regularities of media licensing rules.”
Dijla, Sharqiya, Al-Arabiya, Al-Hadath and Alhurra Iraq were among the stations that had to close their offices in Iraq, while Sky News Arabia, Al-Sumaria and Rudaw were among those warned.
The Journalistic Freedoms Observatory, a non-profit organization that monitors abuses against journalists, said in a statement issued on Saturday that it had seen an internal memorandum sent by the CMC to the offices of Abdul Mahdi and the interior minister, recommending the closures and citing the other channels for mishandling coverage of the demonstrations.
“We are used to seeing the CMC lining up every time with the government (against journalists). It is an independent body and its board of trustees is subject to partisan quotas like all government bodies and institutions,” Ziyad Al-Ajaili, the head of the observatory, told Arab News.
“The closure and warning decisions issued by the CMC are not the first ... The body has a bad record in dealing with the media.”
The CMC told Arab News that it does not punish any media in a “qualitative” manner, and that it followed a globally approved media code of conduct that is included in the terms of the work permit granted to the media.
The CMC also said that it dealt with media outlets that violate the terms of the license “amicably” before resorting to warnings and closures, and that it has not yet “publicly” made any new decisions regarding the 14 channels mentioned.
“No decision has been announced so far. There have been irregularities and there have been warnings, but no action has been taken yet and there is no announcement on the matter to date,” a senior CMC official told Arab News.
“As colleagues, we first talk amicably with the journalist or the media concerned before we take any legal action.”


UAE says US sanctions complicate Syria's return to Arab fold

UAE says US sanctions complicate Syria's return to Arab fold
Updated 3 min 6 sec ago

UAE says US sanctions complicate Syria's return to Arab fold

UAE says US sanctions complicate Syria's return to Arab fold

DUBAI: UAE Foreign Minster Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed said Tuesday the sanctions imposed by the US Caesar’s Act complicate Syria’s return to the Arab fold. 

The return of Syria to the Arab League is in the interest of Syria and other countries of the region, he said.

The minister made the remarks during a joint news conference with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov in Abu Dhabi. 

He also announced that the UAE is looking forward to developing relations with Russia in various fields, saying: "Russia is a reliable friend and partner."

Meanwhile, Lavrov said that Russia has been in contact with UAE officials on developments in the Gulf and the region’s the stability.


UAE to operate second Barakah nuclear power plant

UAE to operate second Barakah nuclear power plant
Updated 09 March 2021

UAE to operate second Barakah nuclear power plant

UAE to operate second Barakah nuclear power plant
  • The Nawah Energy Company became authorized to operate the second unit over the next 60 years

DUBAI: The UAE announced the issuance of a license to operate the second unit of the Barakah nuclear power plant in Abu Dhabi’s Al-Dhafra region, state news agency WAM reported on Tuesday.
The Nawah Energy Company – which is responsible of operating unit one to four of the power plant - became authorized to operate the second unit over the next 60 years, the report said.
The extensive evaluation process during the past five years included a review of the design of the nuclear plant, and a geographical and demographic analysis of its location.
The evaluation process also included the cooling and safety systems of the nuclear reactor, security measures, emergency preparedness procedures, radioactive waste management, and other technical aspects.
The authority also reviewed the readiness of the Nawah Energy Company in making available all the necessary procedures and measures to ensure the safety and security standards of the power plant.
“Today’s announcement represents a milestone in the UAE’s journey and realization of the vision of the wise leadership. It is considered a strategic achievement that culminates in the efforts exerted over the past 13 years,” Permanent Representative of the International Atomic Energy Agency to the UAE Hamad Al-Kaabi said.


Airstrike kills 10 Daesh militants in Nineveh, north of Iraq

Airstrike kills 10 Daesh militants in Nineveh, north of Iraq
Updated 09 March 2021

Airstrike kills 10 Daesh militants in Nineveh, north of Iraq

Airstrike kills 10 Daesh militants in Nineveh, north of Iraq

DUBAI: A US-led coalition airstrike has destroyed a site housing 10 militants from the Daesh group in Nineveh, north of Iraq, according to the country’s state news agency Tuesday. 

“The international coalition warplanes carried out an air strike in Mount Adaya, within the Nineveh sector of operations, which resulted in the destruction of a den containing about 10 members of the Daesh terror group,” the agency reported. 

A brigade from the Iraqi army searched the targeted area after the coalition strike and neutralized two other Daesh militants wearing explosive-laden belts, the report said.


With Internet shutdown, Iran seeks to limit protest outcry

With Internet shutdown, Iran seeks to limit protest outcry
Updated 09 March 2021

With Internet shutdown, Iran seeks to limit protest outcry

With Internet shutdown, Iran seeks to limit protest outcry
  • Rights groups say at least 10 people were killed when security forces opened fire on fuel porters in Sistan-Baluchistan
PARIS: After Iran last month imposed an Internet shutdown lasting several days in a southeastern region during a rare upsurge of unrest, activists say the government is now using the tactic repeatedly when protests erupt.
Rights groups say at least 10 people were killed when security forces opened fire on fuel porters around Saravan in the province of Sistan-Baluchistan on February 22, prompting protests where live ammunition was used on unarmed demonstrators.
But little information filtered out due to a near total shutdown of the Internet in the impoverished region bordering Pakistan, which has a large ethnic Baluch population and has been a flashpoint for cross-border attacks by separatists and Sunni extremists.
The Internet shutdown was a “measure authorities appear to be using as a tool to conceal gross human rights violations and possible international crimes such as extrajudicial killings,” freedom of expression groups Access Now, Article 19 and Miaan Group said in a joint statement with Amnesty International.
Campaigners say such shutdowns, which recall those seen in recent months during street protests in Belarus and Myanmar, have a dual purpose.
They seek to prevent people from using social media messaging services to mobilize protests but also hinder the documentation of rights violations that could be used to rally support at home and abroad.
Iran in November 2019 imposed nationwide Internet limits during rare protests against fuel hikes that the authorities suppressed in a deadly crackdown.
Rights groups fear the same tactic risks being used again during potentially tense presidential elections this summer.

The Sistan-Baluchistan shutdown saw mobile Internet services halted, effectively shutting down the net in an area where phones account for over 95 percent of Internet use.
“It is aimed at harming documentation and the ability of people to mobilize and coordinate,” Mahsa Alimardani, Iran researcher with the Article 19 freedom of expression group, told AFP. “It helps the authorities to be able to control the narrative.”
State media said there were attacks on government buildings in Saravan and that a policeman was killed when unrest spread to the provincial capital Zahedan.
The governor of the city’s region, Abouzarmahdi Nakahei, denounced “fake” reports of deaths in the protests, blaming “foreign media.”
Alimardani noted that targeting mobile Internet connections made the shutdown different from the one seen in November 2019.
Then, Iranians were cut off from international Internet traffic but were able to continue highly-filtered activities on Iran’s homegrown Internet platform the National Information Network (NIN).
She said the documentation of atrocities was the authorities’ biggest fear. “It is a big rallying call when these videos go viral,” she said.


Unlike some other minority groups in Iran like Arabs and Kurds, the Baluch do not have major representation in the West to promote their cause and draw attention to alleged violations on social media.
Most Baluch adhere to the Sunni branch of Islam rather than the Shiism dominant in Iran and rights groups also say Baluch convicts have been disproportionately targeted by executions.
According to information received by Amnesty from Baluchi activists, at least 10 people were killed on February 22 when Revolutionary Guards “unlawfully and deliberately used lethal force” against unarmed Baluchi fuel porters near Saravan.
The crackdown came after the security forces blocked a road to impede the work of the porters, who cross between Iran and Pakistan to sell fuel.
Amnesty added that security forces also used unlawful and excessive force against people who protested in response to the killings, as well as bystanders, leaving another two dead.


Amnesty’s Iran researcher Raha Bahreini told AFP that the toll was a “minimum figure” that Baluchi activists verified after confirming the victims’ names.
The New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran have an even higher toll of 23 dead, citing local sources.
The Internet shutdown “severely restricted the flow of information to rights defenders from contacts and eyewitnesses,” Bahreini told AFP.
“The authorities are fully aware they are preventing the outside world from learning about the extent and gravity of violations on the ground,” she added.
She said such unlawful shutdowns had turned into a “pattern” in Iran.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights spokesperson Rupert Colville said that the shutdown has impeded precise verification of the death toll and had “the apparent purpose of preventing access to information about what is happening there.”
The CHRI said Iran blocked Internet access “to kill protesters indiscriminately and out of the public eye and prevent protesters from communicating and organizing.”
“Security forces killed hundreds of protesters with impunity in November 2019, and they are doing it again now,” said its director Hadi Ghaemi.
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Egypt hopes to resume talks with Ethiopia on Grand Renaissance Dam

Egypt hopes to resume talks with Ethiopia on Grand Renaissance Dam
Updated 09 March 2021

Egypt hopes to resume talks with Ethiopia on Grand Renaissance Dam

Egypt hopes to resume talks with Ethiopia on Grand Renaissance Dam

CAIRO: Egypt hopes to resume talks soon with Ethiopia over the controversial mega-dam to reach an agreement that serves the interests of the three parties involved in the dispute, its foreign minister said.   

Egyptian foreign minister Sameh Shoukry said his country has been communicating with Ethiopia over the Grand Renaissance Dam, which Cairo fears it will significantly cut its crucial water supplies from the Nile River.

No talks on the matter were made outside the framework of the African Union (AU), Shoukry was cited by local daily Al-Masry El-Youm . The AU has been mediating the talks between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia. 

Egypt and Sudan have voiced their concern about the possible threats posed by the dam and how it could negatively affect their water share if Ethiopia abstained from signing a binding and legal agreement on the dam operation and the process of filling its reservoir.