IRAQ: Journalists won't have to sign Code of Conduct
The head of Iraq's election commission said Sunday that Western and Iraqi journalists seeking accreditation to cover the country's Jan. 31 provincial elections would not be required to sign a controversial Code of Conduct.
The 14-page document outlines rules that include a two-day "media silence period" before election day. It also requires media to give equal time to candidates, a restriction that would prove difficult for many local television stations funded by political parties.
"These are not our regulations," said Judge Qasim Hasan Abodi, head of the commission. "All we ask is that the media be neutral, transparent and objective. This is the only thing."
He said journalists do not need to sign this Code of Conduct and it will be removed from the commission's website to clear up the confusion.
Since the code began being circulated a few days ago, Abodi and other non-governmental organizations assisting with the election said they had been flooded with complaints from media outlets and organizations. The Iraqi Journalists Syndicate told Reuters they they rejected "this interference."
Under the Code of Conduct, journalists could have faced penalties including issuing a public apology, fines, suspended licenses or seizure of equipment. The code was drafted by Iraq's Communications and Media Commission, which Abodi said operates separately from the election commission.
-- Kimi Yoshino in Baghdad
Photo: An Iraqi man passes election campaign posters in Baghdad, Iraq on Saturday, Jan. 10, 2009. Iraq's provincial elections are scheduled for January 31, 2009. Credit: HADI MIZBAN/AP