Access to information in Iraq
Access to information is always crucial in validating sources as well as confirming the accuracy of events. However, censorship from the government can block important information. Iraq has had a turbulent past with censorship, having censorship of press for political control under the Iraqi Baathist Party from 1968 onward through Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship. Under the Iraqi Constitution’s Section Two, Article 38, freedom of press, printing, advertisement, media and publication (unless violating public order or morality) is protected. Despite the constitution, Iraq is used to censorship such as here and here. Since June of 2014, the Iraq Ministry of Telecommunications has censored social media including facebook and twitter. A translation and copy of the documents ordering the internet ban can be found here. The main reason for censorship is to prevent further messages from terrorists groups. It has also been suggested that Iraq is censoring information both in and out these areas to prevent embarrassing or inaccurate stories. Jillian York who is the director for international freedom of expression at the Electronic Frontier Foundation is quoted here as saying “The Iraqi government will not achieve anything by blocking social media websites, rather, in doing so, they’re cutting off a lifeline for activists and others to the outside world.”
Access to information from social media is not fair and equal within Iraq as many citizens and journalists are denied the right to freedom of the press under this censorship block. However, certain regions such as the Ninawa, Anbar, Saleh El Din, Kirkuk, Diyalah provinces have had their internet completely blocked, thus limiting access to information in these areas. These areas are located in the North and touch Syria in some places such as Anbar and Saleh El Din. Not surprisngly, these provinces are areas of contest with ISIS.
Despite the restriction of internet in each province, reporting is still occurring. A recent report has shown how heritage sites in Ninawa have been damaged by ISIS. Statues of recent leaders and artists have been smashed with other works of art to be judged acceptable or not in the coming weeks. Additionally, censorship within ISIS controlled areas is also prevalent. Examples include the closing of some departments of Mosul University including all of the College of Art and some departments in Archeology. It’s interesting to see how both the Iraqi government and ISIS are using censorship to prevent access to information on both sides.