In Iraq, tensions have again flared up in a new wave of deadly attacks against political and sectarian targets. Iraqi media, especially outlets that speak to the Sunni minority, called it a crisis out of the government’s control.
Then, when government forces loyal to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki killed 27 Sunni protesters, Iraq’s private media erupted with rage. Anger on the privately-owned airwaves spelled trouble for the government and Maliki’s response was to shut down 10 satellite TV stations – including Al Jazeera’s Arabic language channel – for propagating an "undisciplined media message".
All but one of the channels are aligned with Sunni financial backers, and the government’s move is being seen as a crackdown on dissent by Maliki’s majority Shia government.
In Iraq’s factionalised media landscape, who you are largely determines who you listen to. So for Maliki, silencing Sunni TV was nothing less than removing a weapon from the hands of his rivals. For the Sunni minority, Maliki’s move was just one more sign that their rights and interests are under attack.
This week’s News Divide looks at both sides of the struggle. Speaking for the government is Ali al-Shalah, the president of the Iraq Culture and Media Committee; assessing the government’s actions are Dahr Jamail, a producer for Al Jazeera English, Arab media analyst Nehad Ismail and Ammar Shahbander from the Institute of War and Peace Reporting.
In our Newsbytes, Mexico’s drug wars continue to claim the lives of journalists, photojournalist Daniel Martinez Bazaldua is the latest casualty; the pro-Assad Syrian Electronic Army goes on the offensive against media outlets; and Egypt loses a critical media voice, as Egypt Independent goes under.
We keep our focus on Iraq for this week’s feature. The fall of Saddam Hussein's statue: Was it truly a turning point in the invasion or myth-making by the media? Some say the footage was overplayed but was it over-interpreted too? The Listening Post’s Nic Muirhead returns to that iconic moment in 2003 for answers.
Lastly, when movies portray the most powerful people in the world, who can pull off the lead role? In our Video of the Week – which was a comedy skit played at this year’s White House Correspondent’s dinner – Steven Spielberg tells us that, for the biopic of Barack Obama, playing one president is the best experience for playing another.
Listening Post can be seen each week at the following times GMT: Saturday: 0830, 1930; Sunday: 1430; Monday: 0430.
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