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Iraqi Court Defends Journalist's Right to Criticize

Iraq – newspapers, Baghdad, February 2011
Iraq – newspapers, Baghdad, February 2011

An Iraqi court has thrown out a case by a
government commission against a journalist sued for publishing an article
critical of the commission, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq (RFI) reports.

Lawyer Nima Rubaie, who represents journalist Majed Kaabi, said the Court of
Information and Publication on Tuesday (October 4) rejected a case filed by the
Al-Hajj Commission against Kaabi, who published an article in the "Bi'aa" (New
Constructive) newspaper on June 9 that accused the commission of not doing its
job correctly.

The Al-Hajj Commission is responsible for helping Iraqis make the Islamic
pilgrimage to the holy Saudi city of Mecca.

"This rejection [by the court] is the best translation of the new law on the
protection of the rights of journalists in Iraq," Rubaie told RFI.

The Iraqi parliament recently passed a law that protects journalists from being
sued for what they publish or for criticizing the government or its

Kaabi said he was satisfied with the ruling by judge Shihab Ahmed Yassin. He
told RFI he was sure the court would support his case and was expecting the

"I will always stand by the truth and the rights of citizens against any
abuser," he said.

The court began considering his case in June. The Al-Hajj Commission said it
will appeal the decision.

Spokesman Najm Saedi told RFI "it's not only about the article, but this
journalist accused the people working in the commission of being liars," he
said. "[Kaabi] also refused to apologize."

Rubaie said he is worried about the large number of lawsuits being filed
against journalists and media organizations in Iraq.

"In one year we had 200 cases [against journalists and media outlets]," he said.

But Rubaie added that he is sure the Iraqi judiciary knows how to deal with
such cases and will defend the rights of journalists.

Compiled by RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq and O wire.