Iraqi officials have revoked the licenses of 10 television broadcasters, including Al Jazeera, accusing them of unprofessional and biased coverage. The move comes as the government deals with rising domestic unrest.
Iraq's Communications and Media Commission said on Sunday that its decision to revoke the operating licenses was prompted by the broadcasters' reports of clashes between Sunni protesters and security forces in the Kirkuk provincial town of Heweja on Tuesday.
"Due to the escalation of unprofessional news coverage by some satellite channels of the Heweja events," the commission said it "believes the rhetoric and material used by these channels was incitement and more of misinformation and exaggeration than objectivity."
The other nine channels whose licenses were revoked include the privately owned satellite channels al-Sharqiya and al-Sharqiya News, as well as seven smaller local channels – Salahuddin, Fallujah, Taghyeer, Baghdad, Babiliya, Anwar 2 and al-Gharbiya.
The commission's decree stated that should the 10 stations try to work on Iraqi territory, they will face legal action from security forces. However their broadcast signals remained available to Iraqi viewers Sunday.
The government's decision to suspend the stations' licenses comes amid heightened unrest in the country, where since Tuesday 180 people have been killed in gun battles with security forces and other attacks.
dr/ipj (dpa, AP)