Iraq's Governing Council Bans Arab News Networks

"Iraq's U.S.-appointed Governing Council today temporarily banned two popular Arab satellite television stations from covering the council's news conferences and entering government ministries because of what it called 'irresponsible activities' that threaten the country's 'democracy and stability' and encourage terrorism," the Washington Post reports. Al-Jazeera and al-Arabiya were slapped with a two-week "penalty" for allegedly violating "media-conduct rules," which were outlined for the first time in today's edict. "Those rules include a ban on statements promoting the return of the Baath Party or provoking sectarian strife," the Post writes. "The U.S. civil administrator of Iraq, L. Paul Bremer, has issued an order banning any incitement to violence, including through media outlets, but the reporting of such statements by journalists has so far not been deemed to violate that rule. The council's decision, however, does not include any exemption for simply reporting the statements of resistance groups." This action contrasts a now common administration retort to anti-war hecklers -- used recently by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld at the National Press Club and yesterday by Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz at a talk at New York's New School University -- that Iraqis are now also enjoying the right of free speech and a free press.