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Is Iraq Restricting Speech on Facebook?

Categories: Iraq, Middle East & North Africa, Censorship, Free Expression, Law

Image source Wikipedia [1]

This post was originally published on Social Media Exchange [2].
Iraqi judiciary spokesman AbdelSater El Bayrakdar shared in a press release [3] yesterday that libel and insult on Facebook are punishable crimes, and Facebook will be considered a media platform from now on. The justification for the new policy, according to the statement, comes from Article 4 of the Iraqi penal code (Number 111 from 1969), which states that insult is punishable for up to one year in jail and a fine not exceeding 100 dinars. When adjusted for the dinar's current value, this amount would likely be increased to 500,000 dinars, the equivalent of US $460.
Individuals have been brought to court for online defamation before, says journalist Emad El Sharaa, but most of these cases have been resolved among involved parties. An anonymous source in Iraq suggested that escalating fights online among political parties and sects since last week's execution of Jordanian pilot Muath al-Kasasbeh [4] may have led to the new policy. This is an attempt to reduce social tension online, and one that will most probably fail, the source added.
Sharaa and others, such as the Iraqi Network for Social Media [5], worry that the decision may lead to increased restrictions on freedom of speech online in Iraq.