Baghdad, Asharq Al-Awsat – The Secretary-General of the Sadrist al-Ahrar parliamentary bloc, Zia al-Asadi, informed Asharq Al-Awsat that “the response that was released from the offices of Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki on statements issued by Sadr movement leader [Moqtada al-Sadr] regarding gagging the media may not have been issued by Nuri al-Maliki personally, although we were not expecting a response such as this.”
In addition to the controversy that has raged in Iraq over al-Maliki’s premiership, with numerous Iraqi political movements – including the Sadr movement – seeking to withdraw confidence from him, the Sadr movement and al-Maliki’s State of Law coalition have also squared off over media freedoms.
Commenting on the closure of Iraqi media outlets that report examples of the failure and corruption of the al-Maliki administration, as well as its backing for media outlets that support al-Maliki and serve his political agenda, Moqtada al-Sadr said “he [al-Maliki] is defending one channel [Aletejah TV] and banning another [Al-Baghdadia TV] from operating in Iraq, and the former is affiliated to him whilst the latter tells the truth” adding “where are the [media] freedoms?” Al-Sadr described this as a “policy of gagging the media”, adding “if everybody remains quiet about this, then this will be the beginning to greater injustice.”
For his part, al-Maliki responded by claiming that it is the Sadr movement that is attempting to “gag” the media, referencing recent demonstrations organized by the Sadrist in protest to an anti-Sadrist television channel. Al-Maliki stressed that his government is keen to protect freedom of expression and media freedoms from any threats.
Earlier this month, a number of Sadr movement supporters came out to demonstrate against Aletejah TV in central Baghdad, protesting against a report on the Sadrist-affiliated Promised Day Brigades. During this protest, Sadr supporters raised Iraqi flags and pictures of their leader Moqtada al-Sadr, amidst tight security, whilst the demonstrators also refused to return to their homes until after the satellite television station issued an official apology. On the following day, al-Maliki took the decision to provide protection to media outlets under threat and ban demonstrations close to media headquarters, calling on politicians to respect freedom of expression and not to “stifle” media freedoms.
Speaking exclusively to Asharq Al-Awsat, Sadr movement MP, Zia al-Asadi, characterized al-Maliki’s response as being “convulsive and included many transgressions.” He added “such issues are natural and can happen in any country that is working to build a democratic experience, so long as contexts and standards are respected and there is no move to shuffle the cards.”
He also told Asharq Al-Awsat that “Mr. al-Sadr was commenting on a particular case…he was not talking publicly and expecting a response from the media office of the prime minister in this manner.”
As for whether this response and counter-response is evidence of the escalation of the crisis between al-Maliki’s State of Law coalition and the Sadr movement and whether this has now reached an embarrassing level, al-Asadi stressed “we cannot say this, we are still partners and work together as partners during meetings of the National Alliance.” As for the Sadr movement’s view of the on-going crisis, al-Asadi stated that “we are working to search for means to resolve this, and everybody is concerned with this.”
This controversy takes place alongside the current political crisis in Iraq, and numerous Iraqi political trends – including the Sadr movement – seeking to withdraw confidence from Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. In this context, al-Sadr confirmed that there is no alternative to Iraqi President signing the request to remove confidence from al-Maliki, adding that he would not participate in any other “project”. Al-Sadr stressed that there is no alternative to withdrawing confidence from al-Maliki. http://www.asharq-e.com/news.asp?section=1&id=30065
I find the following to be a curious statement about the process from al- Sadr, " In this context, al-Sadr confirmed that there is no alternative to Iraqi President signing the request to remove confidence from al-Maliki, adding that he would not participate in any other “project”. Al-Sadr stressed that there is no alternative to withdrawing confidence from al-Maliki. " Why does al-Sadr care whether the no confidence proceeds against al-Malicki through the president as opposed to parliament ? Am i misreading or not understanding the content ?