Thursday, November 23, 2006


Al-Sharqiya employees arrested

Politics, Security, Media
A militia group linked to the government is leading a campaign of intimidation and murder against reporters and employees of Azzaman and its sister media outlets. On Monday, al-Shariqiya, the television network which is part of Azzaman Group, lost its star comedian who made Iraqis laugh at their corrupt politicians, the U.S. occupiers as well as the insurgents.
This murderous militia group is targeting Azzaman and its sister outlets as part of a campaign to forced them to leave the country. Azzaman has lost numerous reporters and employees amid threats from government officials to close its television down. The newspaper has reliable information that the comedian, whose program Caricature was watched by millions of Iraqis, was under surveillance for several days by these militias. This militia group is spreading a reign of terror not only in Baghdad but in many other places in the country and now has orders from its leaders to silence Azzaman.
A day before Hassan was assassinated armed men from the same militia faction attacked twosenior officials in al-Sharqiya with the aiming of having them kidnapped. The attempt failed when these officials’ bodyguards confronted the kidnappers and forced them to flee. They attacked Hashem on his way to work and wanted to kidnap him. He initially managed to flee, but the gunmen opened fire on him. Four bullets pierced his body and he died instantly.
Azzaman and al-Sharqiya are under threat. The group wrote to the minister of interior on November 14 asking for protection making it clear that the threats were serious. The ministry took no measures at all and instead it sent a police force to al-Sharqiya office in Baghdad. The force encircled the building and asked the employees to surrender. No explanation was given for the move which resulted in the arrest of several employees. Al-Sharqiya, which is now the most watched television in Iraq, vows not to yield to intimidation and the killing of Hassan will spur it to stick to its independence and editorial stance no matter what.
COMMENT: Parliament recently asked al-Maliki to close down both Azzaman and Al-Sharqiya, possibly partially due to satirical political content. Azzamman is Iraq’s most read newspaper. Al-Shariqiya is the most viewed television network in the country. It describes itself as "the first private, national media project that does not represent any political, ethnic or sectarian group". It Al-Sharqiya is a channel with an Iraqi flavour. Al-Sharqiya does not air religious programming and does not carry the calls for prayers or Friday sermons.
Al-Sharqiya beams from outside Iraq but uses terrestrial broadcasting to reach as many Iraqi households as possible. Its offices are spread across the country. Azzaman has several editions inside Iraq as it is now being printed in both Baghdad and Basra.Its international edition is printed in London, Bahrain and North Africa. Al Sharqiya ("The Eastern One") is Iraq's first privately owned satellite channel. It is owned by the London-based Iraqi media tycoon Saad Bazzaz. The station was launched in March 2004 and began regular transmission on 4 May 2004. COMMENT ENDS.

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