But Iraqi civil society activists this week secured a major victory by securing the repeal of a draft law that threatened to severely curb Internet freedom.
The government withdrew the Draft Informatics Crimes Law following an energetic campaign led by the Iraqi Network for Social Media (IN4SM), the Society for Defending Press Freedom in Iraq and Iraqi Street.
According to Article 19, the London-based freedom of expression group, the law “distorted the legitimate basis of imposing restrictions to the right to freedom of expression and access to information”.
Article 3 of the draft law “prohibited computer use that compromises the independence of the state or its unity, integrity, safety or any of its high economic, political, social, military or security interests” essentially granting authorities the power to censor any expression it wished.
“Iraq’s leadership used draconian measures against opposition politicians, detainees, demonstrators, and journalists, effectively squeezing the space for independent civil society and political freedoms in Iraq,” according to Human Rights Watch’s World Report 2013.
“While demonstrations for reform in the Arab world swept the region, the Iraqi government focused on curtailing the right of Iraqis to assemble freely,” the report notes:
Human Rights Watch observed how Iraqi authorities successfully interfered with Tahrir Square demonstrations in Iraq during 2012, by flooding the weekly protests with al-Maliki supporters and undercover security agents. Baghdad security forces blocked access to protests sites, beat unarmed journalists and protesters, smashed cameras, and confiscated computer memory cards. Several dissenting activists and independent journalists told Human Rights Watch that they no longer felt safe to attend the demonstrations protesting widespread corruption and calling for greater civil and political rights.