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IRAQ LEADERS CLAMP DOWN ON TV CHANNELS

New York Times

BAGHDAD - Iraq's government on Sunday revoked the operating licenses of Al-Jazeera and nine other television channels, saying that they were inciting sectarian conflict.

All but one of the channels are aligned with Sunni financial backers, and the move was widely perceived as a crackdown on dissent by the Shiite-led government that is facing an increasingly violent Sunni uprising.

The decision will not banish the channels from the airwaves: As satellite channels based abroad, they are beyond the reach of the Iraqi government. But it prohibits the channels' journalists from reporting inside Iraq.

The edict issued by Iraq's media commission, which has wide authority to regulate who is allowed to practice journalism and what information is reported, covered a range of channels, many of which have aggressively covered the Sunni protest movement in Iraq. Among the channels are Al-Jazeera, the pan-Arab network based in Qatar, and Sharqiya, which has a wide viewership among Iraq's Sunnis. It is based in Dubai and is owned by Saad al-Bazzaz, a wealthy Iraqi businessman.

Only one of the channels is aligned with the Shiite community: Anwar 2, which is based in Kuwait but owned by an Iranian family.

It often gives voice to conspiracy theories about the involvement of neighboring Sunni nations in Iraq's internal affairs.

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