Iraq’s media commission Monday slapped a three-month suspension on the US-funded Al-Hurra TV for airing a controversial report alleging corruption in the country’s powerful Sunni and Shiite religious institutions.
The 12-minute documentary broadcast on Saturday claimed that Sunni and Shiite Muslim authorities were misusing state funds and had suspicious ties to armed factions.
Iraq’s Communications and Media Commission said it found the report lacking professionalism, balance, and reliable evidence.
It ordered a “suspension of Al-Hurra Iraq’s license for three months and a halt to its activities until it corrects its position” and demanded that it broadcasts a formal apology.
“These steps are tantamount to a final warning to the station, and a tougher punishment will be taken in case this offense is repeated,” the statement said.
Founded in 2004, the channel is widely-watched in Iraq and part of the wider Al-Hurra network, which is funded by the US Congress and directed from Washington.
The controversy comes at a time of heightened tensions between Baghdad’s two main allies Washington and Tehran, with pro-Iran factions ratcheting up their discourse against the US.
Al-Hurra’s report prompted an avalanche of condemnations, with critics suggesting it showed the US was adopting an aggressive stance towards their country.
The Hashed al-Shaabi paramilitary force, which was founded in 2014 by an edict from the top Shiite religious authority in Iraq Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, accused Al-Hurra of having “a hostile news policy”.
Qais al-Khazaali, who heads the powerful Asaib Ahl al-Haq faction within the Hashed, slammed the report as “a dangerous indication of US foreign policy”.
Iraq’s Sunni religious establishment said the report was full of “lies,” and said it was preparing a lawsuit against Al-Hurra.
But the Journalistic Freedoms Observatory said the media commission’s decision was “rushed and illegal”.
“This is the first time in five years such a quick step has been taken against a media organisation,” said Observatory head Ziad Al-Ajili.
“The commission can give its opinion on the journalistic quality of a documentary, but it should have referred the case to the Iraqi judiciary,” Ajili told AFP.
Graft is endemic in Iraq, which is ranked the 12th most corrupt country according to Transparency International.
While Iraqis regularly criticise government figures, it remains taboo to speak ill of the country’s revered religious authorities.
Seattle mayor imposes emergency curfew — set to begin only 14 minutes after her announcement
The mayor of Seattle announced on Twitter that she would be signing an executive order imposing a curfew.
"I will soon be signing an emergency order and the city of Seattle will be imposing a 5 pm curfew soon," Durkin tweeted at 4:46 p.m. -- only 14 minutes before the order was set to go into effect.
"Crowds need to disburse from downtown immediately," she ordered.
"While many individuals gathered peaceful, some individuals have started fires and are destroying buildings. There are multiple fires downtown and it is an extremely dangerous situation. @Seattelfire (sic) does not have access to buildings," she continued.
‘Stop it! Stop it’: Shocking video shows young girl in Seattle crying after reportedly being maced by police
Video posted to social media on Saturday reportedly shows the aftermath after a young girl was maced by Seattle Police.
The girl can be heard screaming as protesters attempted to deliver first aid.
"Stop it! Stop it," she screamed.
Here is a thread Twitter user Kayvon Behroozian posted to Twitter, tagging local media outlets, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkin and Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best.
Apparently Officer Campbell (see thread — mustache) of @SeattlePD maced the CHILD crying in this video. He did not provide his badge number upon request, unlike his colleagues. @seattletimes @Q13FOX @MayorJenny @carmenbest (posting on behalf of friend who took these videos/pics) pic.twitter.com/0ojb37RSJt
WATCH: Protesters chant ‘Eat the Rich’ while marching down Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills
Protesters in Los Angeles marched down Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills on Saturday in protest of police violence.
The protest was one of dozens being held across America following the killing of George Floyd while in the custody of the Minneapolis Police Department.
Protesters could be heard chanting, "Eat the Rich."
Here are some additional images from the scene: