19 June 2003

Bremer is a Baathist

So read the title of a front page editorial in one of the most widely read Iraqi newspapers. Paul Bremer, the top U.S. official in Iraq, introduced a new media policy that prohibits broadcasting or publishing material that incites violence against any individual or group "including racial, ethnic, religious groups, and women"; encourages civil disorder; or "incites violence against coalition forces."
Iraqi journalists are not taking kindly to the restrictions. Among the scores of new publications that have flooded Iraq's newsstands since the US-led overthrow of Saddam Hussein's regime, the broadsheet As-Saah is one of the most widely read. In a front-page editorial Wednesday, the paper's senior editor let readers know what he thought of the country's liberators: "Bremer is a Baathist," the headline reads.

In an interview, editor Ni'ma Abdulrazzaq says the press edict decreed by Bremer lays out restrictions similar to those under Mr. Hussein. Not long ago, an uppity writer could easily be accused of being an agent for America or Israel. "Now they put plastic bags on our heads, throw us to the ground, and accuse us of being agents of Saddam Hussein," the editorial reads. "In other words, if you're not with America, you're with Saddam."

"Mr. Bremer, you remind us of Saddam," the column continues. "We've waited a long time to be free. Now you want us to be slaves."


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