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RIA Novosti’s Iraq office raided after interviewing Iraqi opposition

Hmmm, so after all the stink that the Russian government kicked up over the ABC decision to air their Shamil Basayev interview it certainly is… interesting… to note that RIA Novosti had no qualms about interviewing Abdulla al-Jenabi the leader of one of Iraq’s largest armed guerilla groups. 

Their decision to publish the interview didn’t go down well in Iraq, and security officers were sent to raid their office in Baghdad. The interpreter who aided RIA Novosti is now being questioned over his involvement.

After the interview was published, six Iraqi security officers arrived at the RIA-Novosti office in Baghdad. They inspected the building, examined the agency�s tenancy agreement and ID papers of Iraqi nationals employed by RIA in Iraq. The officers also examined computer software and seized a number of floppy discs, CDs and audio tapes.

The search had been sanctioned by the Justice Ministry and the Interior Ministry of Iraq. The senior officer who coordinated the search declined to name the reasons saying he was not authorized to do so.

I defended ABC’s decision to screen the Basayev interview – primarily on the grounds of free speech and learning about one’s enemies.  And I fully support RIA Novosti’s decision to publish their interview with al-Jenabi for the same reasons. 

I’m sure that the concept of tit-for-tat was not entirely absent in RIA Novosti’s decision to publish the interview so soon after ABC’s Basayev interview, and that a large part of this whole affiar is a ham-fisted attempt on the part of Russia to make a point to America. 

But, all the same, the Iraqi government’s actions amount to little more than intimidation of the press – trying to ensure that their message is the only one broadcast – and they deserve nothing but condemnation for trying to intimidate the foreign press in this way.  As do Russia for their attempt to intimidate press organisations working in Russia.

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