Sunday, March 28, 2004

I haven't been able to find any trace of this anywhere but Al, so take it for what it's worth. If it's true, it is thought provoking on several counts. Incitement to violence is not considered part of the right to free speech in the United States, so that it is perfectly constitutional to arrest someone trying to get a crowd to riot. I've never heard of that being applied to newspaper coverage in the United States rather than a man trying to get a crowd of people right in front of him to start a riot though. And whenever we hear about an authoritarian regime closing down a newspaper by force we never pause to ask if there was a good reason for it - we always assume lies could have and should have been contradicted by truth. That is the crux of the problem - if the people who read this newspaper believe it, and disbelieve everything Bremmer says regardless, that may be impossible. Closing down this source of news doesn't make them trust news from the occupation authority any more though, so there is another difficulty for Bremmer.

Why haven't I found this in American media yet? Could be time zone difference or something innocuous. Maybe I looked in the wrong places.

Followers of Iraqi cleric Muqtada al-Sadr flocked to the offices of his newspaper on Sunday after US-led occupation forces shut down the daily, accusing it of inciting "violence".

They were responding to a call for an open-ended sit-in outside al-Hawza al-Natiqa buildings on al-Hurriyah square in southern Baghdad to protest against the action on the daily.

"No to occupation," shouted the crowd, as dozens of unarmed al-Sadr supporters, wearing black and deployed to maintain security, watched a group burn a US flag.

Al-Sadr's spokesman, Mahmud Sudani, said that dozens of US troops came to the premises and shut the doors with chains and locks before issuing a written order by occupation administrator Paul Bremer for the closure of the newspaper.

The order accused the paper of having "published articles that prove an intention to disturb general security and incite violence against the coalition and its employees."

It ordered a 60-day shut down of al-Hawza from the day the letter was dated. However, the order gave no date.

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