After the 2003 American-led invasion, Iraqis enjoyed an immediate benefit--freedom of expression.
Today, after all the pain and sacrifices we have endured for six years, this freedom is threatened again.
After the Saddam Hussein regime fell, thousands of book and dozens of newspapers that had been banned, censored or not permitted to be printed were suddenly free to publish.
Today I received a statement from the Society to Defend Press Freedom in Iraq. It said that the Iraqi Ministry of Culture, in cooperation with the Ministry of Interior, has decided to censor the importation of books from outside the country and restrict printing them inside the country.
They are doing this in the form of a commission. How is it going to violate our still-new freedom of expression? By issuing permits required for anything that is to be printed-- newspapers, books, magazines and even posters.
Because Friday is the Muslim holy day, officials of neither ministry could be reached for comment.
Saddam and his party made themselves judge, jury and sometimes even executioner on what people could read and what they couldn't read.
Under the bad old regime, books were printed in governmental printing houses or by companies subject to government monitoring. We could buy and read foreign newspapers, but many pages or parts of pages were cut out with scissors. That was Saddam's censorship—crude but effective.
The press freedom society said in its statement: "We demand that Prime Minister (Nouri al Maliki) stop these procedures from the ministries. We consider these procedures a violation of press freedom in Iraq." The statement also accused some Iraqi officials of trying to turn back the clock on freedom of expression.
It looks to me as if that "judge" is trying to return.