Iraq criminalises social media sectarianism

Iraq criminalises social media sectarianism
2 min read
24 November, 2015
Tweeting sectarian comments or 'liking' Facebook pages that promote sect-based division could now lead to your arrest in Iraq.
Iraq is home to many religious and ethnic groups [Getty]
Iraqi lawmakers have made it illegal to post sectarian hate speech on Facebook and Twitter, in an attempt to ease the country's deep-seated religious and ethnic divisions.

The Iraq parliament has passed a law that will see people who promote sectarianism on social media detained, Faris al-Faris, a prominent MP, told reporters. The law has now been passed to the cabinet for its endorsement and implementation.

"The law will go after people who post sectarian material on Facebook and Twitter and support sectarian pages and groups," Faris said, reported al-Araby al-Jadeed's correspondent in Iraq.

     The law will go after people who post sectarian material on Facebook and Twitter and support sectarian pages and groups
- Faris al-Faris, Iraqi MP
The member of parliament said that police had already detained 109 people in Baghdad under the new law.

"Sectarian posts online have increased recently in an unprecedented way, which has driven the authorities to come up with this law," a source in the Iraqi judicial system told al-Araby al-Jadeed's correspondent.

IT engineer Baqir Saleh said the Iraqi Ministry of Communication would rely on the help of 3,000 civil servants to monitor "sectarian accounts" on social media across the whole country and report offenders to police.

"Social media has become a hotbed of sectarian pages that are constantly encouraging sectarian strife, and in many cases receive financial support from political parties and armed militias. Monitoring these pages will not be easy because many of them are set up by fake accounts," Saleh added.

Activist Fakhri al-Jubouri also expressed his pessimism. "It is going to be impossible for the government to eliminate sectarianism through arresting Facebook and Twitter users," he said.

"There are currently more than 50 armed militias publicly and openly practicing sectarianism and severely persecuting Sunnis, while the government has not arrested a single member of these militias."