Protest coverage: Iraqi channel faces month-long ban

Two Iraqis were killed and dozens wounded in protest-related violence on Tuesday. The youth-led campaign has pressed on despite violence that has killed more than 480 people. (Reuters)
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Updated 29 January 2020

Protest coverage: Iraqi channel faces month-long ban

  • Its Baghdad office was raided in the first week of rallies and on Jan. 10

BAGHDAD: Iraqi authorities have ordered the closure for a month of Al-Dijla television, which has aired intensive coverage of anti-government protests in recent months, media and police sources said on Tuesday.

“Interior Ministry forces fully shut down Al-Dijla’s offices in Baghdad last night and respectfully asked the staff to leave,” a source from the broadcaster said.

An Interior Ministry official confirmed that security forces had stormed the offices in the Jadiriyah neighborhood of east Baghdad late on Monday.

At least 80 employees work at the Baghdad bureau and another 50 work at the station’s headquarters in Amman, from where it broadcasts.

The Al-Dijla employee, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press, said the main office had been ordered by Jordanian authorities to stop broadcasting for a month.

FASTFACT

Al-Dijlah has provided daily coverage of the anti-government protests sweeping Baghdad and the Shiite-majority south since Oct. 1, despite pressure on its staff.

“The Iraqi government requested from Jordan that it halt the station’s broadcasting for a month based on an Iraqi complaint,” the source said.

Starting on Monday, the frequency on which Al-Dijla typically broadcasts has showed a still image of its logo.

Al-Dijla has provided daily coverage of the anti-government protests sweeping Baghdad and the Shiite-majority south since Oct. 1, despite pressure on its staff.

Its Baghdad office was raided in the first week of rallies and on Jan. 10, one of its correspondents and his cameraman were gunned down in the southern city of Basra.

Before he was killed, correspondent Ahmad Abdessamad, 37, said he had been threatened by Iraqi armed groups because he criticized powerful neighbour Iran in his coverage.

On Jan. 20, Al-Dijla’s leading anchorman Nabil Jassem got into an on-air dispute with the prime minister’s spokesman for military issues, Abdelkarim Khalaf.

Khalaf refused to respond to a question from Jassem about the number of casualties in protest-related violence, and the two accused each other of being disrespectful before Khalaf walked off the set.

In reaction to the shutdown, Al-Dijla administrative head Jamal Al-Karbuli tweeted: “Al-Dijla pays the price for truth.”

Haidar Al-Maytham, a member of the Iraqi National Syndicate for Journalists, said on Tuesday that authorities had taken issue with Al-Dijla’s “politics.”

“There are political disagreements and differences of opinion between the channel’s administration and Iraqi officials, which led to the decision (to shut it down),” Maytham said.

Major powers and advocacy groups have called on Iraq to do more to ensure media freedom and protect journalists covering the protests


UAE offers free family counselling to support community during coronavirus crisis

Updated 10 min 26 sec ago

UAE offers free family counselling to support community during coronavirus crisis

  • The initiative will provide support for families to alleviate the psychological impacts of COVID-19 during home quarantine and social isolation
  • People can call a hotline or book video call appointments on the ministry’s website

DUBAI: The Ministry of Community Development (MoCD) launched the ‘Taaluf’ initiative to offer free family counselling to all UAE residents, state news agency WAM reported on Tuesday.
There will be four interactive channels providing support for families to alleviate the psychological impacts of COVID-19 during home quarantine and social distancing, MoCD said.
The initiative “focuses on interaction and dialogue to disseminate knowledge, guidance and make consultation easier and faster, reaching out to all members of the UAE community,” Assistant Under-Secretary for Social Development Hessa Tahlak said.
The private and confidential service will be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Residents can reach the service through a hotline, by calling 800623 from 9 a.m. until 9 p.m. from Sunday to Thursday. They can also register for video call appointments via Whatsapp on the Ministry’s website.
MoCD will also provide weekly live streams via their Instagram account to the public.
The UAE has implemented a curfew as part of the national disinfection program since March 26, people are not allowed to leave their houses without permits between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m.
The regulation is part of the country’s efforts to curb the spread of coronavirus, as the current toll reached 611 with five deaths and 61 recoveries.