Your Daily Bad News From Iraq


How's that Iraqi free press going, you ask? Not exactly "free."

Under a broad new set of laws criminalizing speech that ridicules the government or its officials, some resurrected verbatim from Saddam Hussein's penal code, roughly a dozen Iraqi journalists have been charged with offending public officials in the past year.

Currently, three journalists for a small newspaper in southeastern Iraq are being tried here for articles last year that accused a provincial governor, local judges and police officials of corruption. The journalists are accused of violating Paragraph 226 of the penal code, which makes anyone who "publicly insults" the government or public officials subject to up to seven years in prison.

Obviously the code isn't as harsh as it was under Saddam Hussein. But this "burgeoning free press" is one of the purported bright spots in the new Iraq, and one of the things the administration always hauls out to wail on war doubters. If the press is only as free as, say, Venezuela's, it's worth knowing that.