Tuesday, 26 January 2010

IFJ backs Guardian over Iraq defamation case

The International Federation of Journalists, ARTICLE 19  and the Iraqi Union of Journalists have called on the Iraqi authorities to drop charges of defamation against the Guardian and its journalist Ghaith Abdul-Ahad.
The IFJ and ARTICLE 19 have filed a joint amicus brief to the Iraqi Appeal Court in advance of its hearing tomorrow (27 January).
In November 2009, an Iraqi court ordered the Guardian to pay a 100m dinar (£52,000) fine to the Prime Minister over a story published in April last year under the title "Six years after Saddam Hussein, Nouri al-Maliki tightens his grip on Iraq".
The article quoted three anonymous members of the Iraqi Intelligence Services who alleged that the Prime Minister was running Iraqi affairs with a totalitarian hand, that the Iraqi government was close to the United States and that officials attached to the Iraqi national intelligence service were monitoring intelligence and military activities within the government itself.
The prosecution was under the Saddam-era Publications Law for reportedly defaming the Prime Minister and the Iraqi Intelligence Services. The court had also asked the journalist to disclose the names and contact details of the three officers. They refused.
‘‘At the heart of this case is the fight for independent journalism and for protection of sources in Iraq," said Aidan White, IFJ general secretary. "We urge the Iraqi authorities to drop the charges and to put media law reform on their agenda."

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