In Iraq, tensions have again flared up in a new wave of deadly attacks against political and sectarian targets. Iraqi media, especially outlets that speak to the Sunni minority, called it a crisis out of the government’s control.
Then, when government forces loyal to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki killed 27 Sunni protesters, Iraq’s private media erupted with rage. Anger on the privately-owned airwaves spelled trouble for the government and Maliki’s response was to shut down 10 satellite TV stations – including Al Jazeera’s Arabic language channel – for propagating an "undisciplined media message".
All but one of the channels are aligned with Sunni financial backers, and the government’s move is being seen as a crackdown on dissent by Maliki’s majority Shia government.
In Iraq’s factionalised media landscape, who you are largely determines who you listen to. So for Maliki, silencing Sunni TV was nothing less than removing a weapon from the hands of his rivals. For the Sunni minority, Maliki’s move was just one more sign that their rights and interests are under attack.
This week’s News Divide looks at both sides of the struggle. Speaking for the government is Ali Al-Shalah, the president of the Iraq Culture and Media Committee; assessing the government’s actions are Dahr Jamail, a producer for Al Jazeera English, Arab media analyst Nehad Ismail and Ammar Shahbander from the Institute of War and Peace Reporting.