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Government orders closure of radio linked to Shiite leader Moqtada al-Sadr

(RSF/IFEX) - On 15 May 2008, Reporters Without Borders condemned the unwarranted closure of a privately-owned radio station linked to Shiite leader Moqtada al-Sadr as fierce clashes continued between the cleric's militia, the Mahdi Army, and the US and Iraqi armies.

Security forces reporting to the interior ministry raided the studios of al-Ahd in the al-Baladiyat district of Baghdad on 8 May and after locking staff out of the station they shut it down for "incitement to violence".

Pro-Sadr deputies immediately called on the parliamentary commission on culture and the media to open an investigation. Spokesman for the radio, Kassem al-Radini, denied the government's accusations, saying that the radio had always followed "a moderate editorial line". "It is a purely a political decision without any legal basis. We plan to bring a case before the courts," he told Reporters Without Borders.

"The closure of al-Ahd can only come from a decision in the courts after a fair hearing. Must opposition media continue to expect this kind of treatment?" the worldwide press freedom organisation asked.

"We urge the prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, to put and end to this unacceptable pressure and re-open this radio," it added.

The US Army just over a year ago carried out a series of raids and searches of media belonging to the al-Sadr tendency, which, in addition to radio al-Ahd, has a number of publications. Documents were seized.

Al-Ahd was launched in 2005 and is financed by the al-Sadr tendency. It employs nearly 75 people across the country.

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