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Human Rights Watch slams closure of Al-Jazeera's Iraq bureau

Human Rights Watch has criticised the closure of Al-Jazeera's Baghdad bureau by the Iraqi Communications and Media Commission, saying it is an attempt to clamp down on freedom of expression.

The watchdog called on the commission in a statement on Monday to immediately reverse its decision and allow the bureau to operate freely in accordance with international standards on freedom of the media and free speech.

According to the statement, the commission has accused Al Jazeera in a letter to the bureau of "inciting sectarianism and violence".

Waleed Ibrahim, the station's Baghdad bureau chief, said that commission officials later told him the order stemmed from their displeasure with editorial policies of Al Jazeera's headquarters in Qatar.

Deputy Middle East Director at Human Rights Watch Joe Stork said, "Iraqis have a right to hear a variety of perspectives on current events".

"Closing down a prominent international network on the basis of vague and unsubstantiated allegations smacks of political motivation to shut out uncomfortable criticism, and it's an action that should be immediately reversed," he added.

HRW noted that this is not the first time the commission has suspended the channel's work license.

In 2013, the Commission suspended the licenses of Al Jazeera and nine other channels for allegedly reporting with a sectarian tone and promoting unnamed terrorist organizations.

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International OrganisationsIraqMiddle EastNews
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