by Chris Newbould on Nov 3, 2010
Iraq's media licensing commission said on Tuesday that it closed down the privately-owned Al-Baghdadiya television channel because it had turned into "a mouthpiece for terrorists."
The Egypt-based channel, whose programming focused heavily on Iraq, was closed because it had aired demands made by Al-Qaeda gunmen during Sunday's hostage drama at a Baghdad church that ended with 46 hostages killed, the commission said.
Iraq’s Communications and Media Commission said in a statement: "The closure came after a decision against Al-Baghdadiya for violating the rules and regulations of broadcast media organizations.” It added that the channel had broadcast what it called the 'demands of hostage-takers'," and had "turned into a mouthpiece for terrorists."
Two Al-Baghdadiya staff members were arrested for being in contact with the hostage-takers, but security sources said Tuesday that one had been released.
Paris-based media watchdog Reporters Without Borders condemned the closure in a further statement.
"This decision by the authorities was hasty and disproportionate," it said. "Before closing this TV station, there should have been an impartial investigation to establish to what degree the activities of its journalists influenced the outcome of the hostage-taking."
In telephone contact with Al-Baghdadiya the gunmen had voiced demands that included freeing imprisoned militants in Iraq and Egypt.
Iraqi troops cut the power from the privately-owned channel on Monday, interrupting broadcasts for around 15 minutes. When transmission resumed it appeared to be from outside Iraq.
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