Critique prohibited

Iraqi teachers’ union rejects ministry decree on social media restrictions

BAGHDAD — The Iraqi Ministry of Education’s recent decision to prohibit teachers and educational staff from criticizing or commenting on social media has incited significant backlash.

Uday Al-Issawi, head of the Iraqi Teachers’ Union, stated the directive impacts over a million educators by suggesting rampant misconduct among them.

Al-Issawi, voicing strong opposition, emphasized the importance of personal freedoms and urged the education minister to overturn the decision. An official letter of protest was sent to the ministry, he confirmed.

Dated May 2, 2024, the contentious directive was sent to all educational departments and schools within the General Directorate of Education. It mandates that staff avoid media appearances or social media posts without prior authorization from the appropriate entities, warning of legal and administrative consequences for both supervisors and violators: “Employees are prohibited from appearing on any media channels or posting on social media without prior official approval from the authorized entities. Ensure your staff and educational cadres adhere. Otherwise, both the head of the department or school principal and the offending employee will bear all legal and administrative consequences.”

“The decision is definitely incorrect,” Al-Issawi told 964media. “We advocate for legal action against actual misconduct, but requiring all educators to sign restrictive pledges infringes on personal freedoms.”

He further noted that social media accounts belong to individuals, not the state or its institutions.

A similar directive from the Directorate General of Education in Karbala instructed staff not to post derogatory or critical content about political figures on social media, branding such behavior as unethical and uncivilized.

The ministry also requires teachers to sign a pledge form that includes their name and work address, agreeing to comply with these rules under threat of legal action for non-compliance.

Al-Issawi criticized the public nature of these directives, arguing they unfairly generalize and exaggerate disciplinary issues within the Ministry of Education. “Iraqi law allows those aggrieved by social media posts to seek redress through the courts. It’s unjust to impose such broad restrictions based on a few cases,” he added.

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