Officials say the code is not intended to censor the media, only to “stifle intemperate speech,” but Iraqi journalists who endured censorship under Saddam Hussein are protesting the decision.
“Freedom’s untidy.” These are the words Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld uttered when faced with increasingly difficult questions at a Pentagon Press briefing on April 11.
Rampant looting had broken out across Baghdad. Buildings were set on fire all over the city. Workers at the Baghdad National museum had fled and the museum was being gutted of its archaeological treasures.
Rumsfeld told reporters: “It’s untidy. And freedom’s untidy. And free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things.”
Evidently, the same rule will not apply to the free Iraqi press.
Last week, US occupation forces devised a “code of conduct” for the Iraqi press.
Officials say the code is not intended to censor the media, only to “stifle intemperate speech that could incite violence and hinder efforts to build a civil society.”
Material deemed provocative will be threatened or shut down.
The decision has drawn protests from Iraqi journalists who endured censorship under Saddam Hussein and were punished if they strayed beyond the official line.
Dozens of daily and weekly newspapers have sprung up in the capital since the fall of Saddam’s regime in April. The Washington Post describes the situation as “a raucous rush of unfettered expression.”
- Borzou Daragahi, freelance reporter in Baghdad. He broke the story on the new US “code of conduct” for the Iraqi media, in the Associated Press.