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Authorities prohibit live satellite TV coverage of demonstration

(RSF/IFEX) - 24 February 2011 - Reporters Without Borders deplores yesterday's announcement by the military banning live satellite TV coverage of tomorrow's demonstration in Baghdad's Tahrir Square on security grounds, and supports the Iraqi media that have condemned the ban as an act of censorship.

Announcing the ban at a news conference, Baghdad military command spokesman Gen. Qassem Atta said no vehicle would be allowed anywhere near the big planned demonstration because of the danger of car bombs. To provide live coverage, TV reporters need to be accompanied by satellite uplink trucks.

"The authorities are clearly using security as a pretext for preventing live coverage of these protests," Reporters Without Borders said. "The aim is to prevent Iraqis and the rest of the world from seeing the scale of the discontent. This violates the right of journalists to work without obstruction."

Reporters Without Borders is also concerned about a spate of attacks on news media and NGOs in the past 48 hours by the security forces, which are supposed to protect them.

Journalist Muntazer Al-Zaydi was arrested today when he tried to give a news conference outside the Abu Hanifa mosque in Baghdad's Adhamiyah neighbourhood. Reporters Without Borders urges the authorities to free him at once.

In a statement published by the news agency Nina, Issam Al-Husseini, the president of the board of the magazine "Medias", said the magazine's central Baghdad headquarters was raided yesterday by members of the security forces, who offered no explanation. Husseini pointed out that the magazine limits itself to covering youth and culture issues and does not touch politics.

The offices of the Baghdad Media Centre, which organizes media training and development seminars, was also stormed yesterday by members of the security forces, who broke down its doors and seized archives. No warrant was shown.

Ayn (Eye), an election-monitoring NGO located in the central Baghdad district of Karrada, was attacked yesterday by a joint army and police unit accompanied by armed civilians. Some of its equipment and archives were seized, including documents about the most recent legislative elections, held in March 2010.

Reporters Without Borders previously reported yesterday's criminal raid on the Journalistic Freedoms Observatory, which was carried out by "private" security forces dressed in army uniforms.

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