Iraqi leaders have been urged to abandon any plans for future control of media in the country that might compromise free speech and press freedom.
The call has come in a letter from the International Federation of Journalists to Iyad Allawi, Prime Minister of the Iraqi Interim Government.
It follows reports that Iraqi officials have created a Higher Media Commission charged with regulating print and broadcast media in Iraq, with the power to impose sanctions against the press.
There are reports that the Commission will have power to censor news coverage and impose bans on certain criticisms of the prime minister.
In the letter, the IFJ claimed Iraq had a “golden opportunity to set standards and benchmarks for freedom of expression” that would give momentum to calls for more free speech throughout the Arab world.
It added: “Iraqi journalists, after years under the intolerable burden of dictatorship, now have the chance to play a significant role in creating a new democratic and just society.”
The IFJ said that although a media commission may have a legitimate role to play in creating the framework for a new media landscape, it must not become an instrument to be used against journalists.
“We would like an assurance that Iraq will not put in place any mechanism that will open the door to political control of media.”
The IFJ has asked Allawi to reaffirm the rights of all journalists to work freely and safely and to allay fears that new press controls are on the way.
By Jon Slattery