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Iraq lifts ban on social networking sites

Iraqi citizens protest against the government on 15 July 2018 [Hayder Abu Rizq/Anadolu Agency]
Iraqi citizens protest against the government on 15 July 2018 [Hayder Abu Rizq/Anadolu Agency]

The Iraqi government yesterday lifted the weeks-long ban on social media websites amid protests in the capital Baghdad and other southern provinces, local media has reported.

“Iraq’s National Communication and Media Commission (CMC) informed us [Kurdistan Regional Government] on Wednesday that they had lifted the ban on social media,” the spokesperson of the Ministry of Communications at the KRG, Omed Mohammed, said.

Demonstrations against unemployment, the rising cost of basic goods and services, and high electricity fares erupted last week in Iraq’s southern cities. Afterwards, the Iraqi authorities cut off the internet service across the country, including in the northern Kurdish region.

READ: Baghdad asks for clerics’ help to limit spread of protests

Officials have said that the internet service was suspended due to “a disruption in the country’s main lines”.

Following the ban, the Japanese social media app, Viber, sent an apology to all its users in Iraq claiming that the service had been disrupted “due to internet outages across the country”.

Economists have said that since the internet was suspended, Iraqi trade has incurred $1 million in losses.

On Tuesday, Human Rights Watch (HRW) called on the Iraqi authorities to “lift all internet restrictions”, stressing that

Blocking internet access to people in southern Iraq not only denies them their right to exchange information, but can put people in danger

In response, the Iraqi Prime Minister, Haider Al-Abadi, said that there is “tremendous freedom regarding the use of internet in the country which cannot be found in most democratic countries in the world.”

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