Rejects 'defamation' accusations

Iraqi freedom of expression alliance denounces legal action against critics

BAGHDAD – The Iraqi Freedom of Expression Alliance has criticized a directive from acting Parliament Speaker Mohsen Al-Mandalawi, issued on Wednesday. The directive mandates legal actions against anyone accused of “defaming” the legislative body. The Alliance sees this move as a significant threat to free speech, particularly due to the directive’s use of broad terminology that could target dissenting voices.

The group expressed alarm over the rise in political squabbles and global conflicts taking place on Iraqi soil. It reaffirmed its dedication to safeguarding the human and constitutional rights to free speech, urging that these rights not be compromised by political strife.

The Alliance singled out the recent instruction by acting Speaker Al-Mandalawi to the parliament’s legal team, aiming to initiate lawsuits against any entity or person “defaming” the legislature or its members, as particularly perilous. It argued that the term “defaming” is too broad, potentially being used against critics or anyone expressing unpopular views, thus violating Article 38 of the 2005 Iraqi Constitution. This strategy, according to the Alliance, is a deliberate effort to curtail free expression.

It also denounced the intimidation and defamation campaigns by political entities against detractors, journalists, and human rights advocates, viewing these actions as undermining the democratic values of post-dictatorship Iraq.

The Alliance stood firm against attempts to limit freedoms via legislation that contradicts human rights norms, urging lawmakers to discard such proposals. It reminded legislators of their obligation to serve the interests of their constituents rather than their political factions.

Additionally, the Alliance called on Prime Minister Mohammed Shia’ Al-Sudani’s administration to retract the proposed law concerning freedom of speech, assembly, and peaceful protest, citing previous concerns. It also demanded the government halt arbitrary detentions without court orders and to openly disclose any accusations against commentators, bloggers, and journalists.