What did Iraq’s Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki gain by ordering the closure of Cairo-based news channel Al-Baghdadiya’s offices in Iraq?
The Iraqi interior ministry which is directly controlled by Maliki, said over the weekend that the popular channel’s Iraq operation was being closed down, “Because it was not bound by the Media Commission’s regulations.”
The commission appears to have remembered Baghdadiya’s breaches only after the channel began airing views critical of Maliki.
Whoever advised the premier to order the closure should be sacked. But then, Maliki may have to sack himself, because in all likelihood he probably listened to his own advice, adding yet another blunder to his long list of blunders.
The decision lacks common sense, and gained nothing but more disgrace for a leader who has shown that he possesses only a single trait of leadership: Authoritarian rule – of a type that no longer has any place in Iraq.
Since the closure, social media pages have been chattering with praise for Baghdadiya and vitriol for Maliki, who is being likened to the ousted dictator Saddam Hussein. In order to silence the criticism about him on Facebook, maybe Maliki should consider clamping down on Iraq’s 2.5 million Facebook users, or perhaps on the Internet itself.
The number of Baghdadiya viewers spiked after Maliki’s order, with many viewers watching to learn about the premier’s move. Even though Baghdadiya can no longer report from Iraq, it continues to report on the country from its Cairo headquarters and other venues. Maliki, in contrast, has no powerful medium to explain his side of the story.
If the prime minister was trying to deprive Baghdadiya the advantage of reporting from inside Iraq, he clearly missed the mark: With technology what it is these days, every person with a mobile phone, a camera and an Internet connection can become a reporter for Baghdadiya.
Even if the channel cannot operate out of the rest of Iraq, Baghdadiya will still be able to report from the Kurdistan Region. This will give the region yet another gold star against Baghdad. The channel’s Kurdish coverage is likely to increase, while Maliki’s face and words will be less visible to audiences.
By closing the channel’s Iraq operations, Maliki has achieved only this: He has cut off his nose to spite his face.