The secretary general of Reporters Without Borders, Robert Menard, on Saturday condemned the decision to indefinitely extend the closure of Aljazeera's Baghdad office.

 

The decision "contradicts Iraqi officials' statements on democracy", Menard said, adding that it went against the notions of law and freedom.

 

Iraqi security forces stormed into Aljazeera's Baghdad office on Saturday and sealed it with red wax.  

 

Officials said the channel had not respected the closure order nor answered demands for an explanation on the tone of its broadcasts.

 

Reporters without Borders and the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists were among several media bodies to criticise the original ban, which was imposed on 5 August amid an upsurge in US-led military operations in Iraq.

 

Outrage

 

Aljazeera said it was outraged at the decision, saying the ban was inconsistent with the Iraqi administration's pledges on press freedom.

 

Protesters slammed the ban in
August outside the station's office

"We are also outraged at the procedures they have used. Police attacked our office this afternoon, took photographs and sealed it up," Aljazeera spokesman Jihad Ballout said.

 

Ballout defended Aljazeera's Iraq coverage and denied any wrongdoing.

 

"Yes, we have been getting pictures out of Iraq, but like most others we are depending on the news and footage agencies to get our pictures. So we abided by the law," Ballout explained.

 

Didn't ask

 

A statement issued by the Ministerial Committee for National Security (MCNS) on Saturday said the ban was extended because Aljazeera, during the interim ban period, did not write to the Iraqi government inquiring about the reasons behind it.

 

"On the contrary Aljazeera persisted on not respecting the decision and continued broadcasting from Iraq by conducting interviews that intentionally ignored the ban decision."

 

"In view of that, the MCNS decided to extend the period of banning Aljazeera from broadcasting from Iraq until it submitted a written clarification," the statement went on.

 

"Upon this written letter and the future conduct of Aljazeera, the committee will consider taking a final decision that will be announced in due course."