In the wake of an explosion of Sunni and sectarian violence, the Iraqi government has cracked down on al-Jazeera and nine other channels it blames for promoting a "sectarian agenda" that is fueling the recent actions.
Qatar station al-Jazeera responded to the suspension of its broadcasting license with shock. "We cover all sides of the stories in Iraq, and have done for many years. The fact that so many channels have been hit all at once though suggests this is an indiscriminate decision," the news network said in a statement to the Associated Press. "We urge the authorities to uphold freedom for the media to report the important stories taking place in Iraq."
The ban also includes stations al-Sharqiya, al-Sharqiya News, as well as seven smaller local stations. The communications and media commission blamed the suspension on the stations' exaggerated and misleading reports for fanning the flames of a recent upsurge in violence in the region. On Tuesday, a Sunni Muslim anti-government protest camp was raided by Iraqi forces, which was met in the days that followed with backlash at Iraqi army checkpoints.
The Associated Press reports that over 180 people have been killed since the sectarian unrest began last week. In its statement announcing the ban, the commission stated that the channels had made "clear calls for disorder and for launching retaliatory criminal attacks against security forces," also issuing misleading reports that spotlight "terrorist organizations who committed crimes against Iraqi people."
As of Sunday, broadcast signals of the ten channels remained available to Iraqi viewers. The suspension states that if the stations attempt to work within Iraqi borders they will face legal action and retaliation.