Iraqi Interior Ministry imposes restrictions on social media users


Shafaq News / Experts have warned of using "double standards" in the recent campaign launched by the Iraqi Interior Ministry to combat "inadequate content". In fact, it is feared that these measures will be used for political ends, to intimidate activists, intellectuals, or those who oppose displays of authority and corruption.

In February, the Ministry of Interior and the Supreme Judicial Council launched a campaign to prosecute those accused of sharing "inadequate content" on social media, following which arrest warrants and prison sentences were issued against Hassan Sachma, Um Fahad, Asal Hussam, and Saalousa, among others.

The campaign "achieved most of its desired goals within a short period," according to Maj. Gen. Khaled al-Muhanna, spokesman for the Ministry of Interior. He added that "the ministry was able to control the pace of publication in a way that does not lead to indecent assault, or offensive and contrary to the traditions of society."

Social media, he said, "is a reality imposed on Iraqi society. Thus it has become imperative to purge it from obscene elements that insult public taste and morals, pose a serious threat to our children, and are obviously in violation of the original Iraqi Penal Code No. 111 of 1969 amended."

Popular performer Saadoun al-Saadi stated, "I have been pushing for the start of such a campaign for a long time because, due to the lack of regulations on social media, many celebrities' content has become absurd."

He declared his support for the Interior Ministry's campaign, expressing regret about one of his most recent songs, "I apologize for it and beg for everyone's pardon. Everybody makes mistakes, and I only wanted to cheer people up."

Furthermore, Hadi Jalo, head of the Journalistic Freedoms Observatory, pointed out that "the measures taken by the Downward Content Committee at the Ministry of Interior represent an advanced case after the degradation on Facebook, Tik Tok, and other social media sites, in addition to practices in nightclubs and other places."

"However, these measures should not be applied with double standards, i.e., they should not be used for political purposes or to intimidate activists, intellectuals, or those who denounce abuses of power and corruption."

He also emphasized the importance of not rushing them, "Such celebrities ought to be made aware beforehand and allowed to reverse these behaviors and delete their content. They should also pledge not to repeat it in the future."

Jalo also called for the need to "form a committee of experts specialized in the judiciary, press, and media, to determine whether or not to drop content on social media, as the important thing is to preserve the dignity of society, moral values, knowledge, and culture, and not to go far in taking these measures."

As for publishing the "inadequate content penalty, legal expert Ali al-Tamimi explained that "article 403 of the Penal Code punishes with imprisonment for two years and a fine for inadequate content on social media," pointing out that "Iraq needs to legislate the Anti-Cybercrime Law to be a solution to such common crimes."

Al-Tamimi told Shafaq News Agency, "a special section is established in the Media and Communications Commission to be considered an amendment to Law 65 of 2004. It includes several media and law specialists to monitor what is published. If it constitutes a crime, it is referred to the competent court, and this control is linked to other security bodies from which it receives information."

It is noteworthy that, recently, videos of celebrities have been broadcast on social media. But, according to activists and social affairs followers, they promote "inadequate content inconsistent with cultural norms and societal customs and traditions".

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