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The Communication and Media Commission in Iraq (CMC)

Guiding Principle

The communications and Media in Iraq have been fluctuated for decades. In fact, this fluctuation constitutes a reality that the country has been facing such as the security issues, the economic blockade imposed on the previous regime, and all the exceptional circumstances. This paper illustrates the nature and reality of communication and media in Iraq after 2003.

I. The Establishment of the Communication and Media Commission in Iraq

On March 20, 2004, the Communication and Media Commission (CMC) was established by The Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), which issued the Order 65, by Paul Bremer, the U.S. Civil Administrator for Iraq. The CPA controlled the media and communication in Iraq, in a way that CPA was licensing and giving frequencies to the media outlets. The order of establishing the CMC has been based on international conventions and current best practice. In its preamble it states: “Regulations in this context (i) should provide for the fullest exercise of freedom of expression as defined by international convention, (ii) must encourage pluralism and diverse political debate and (iii) must empower rather than restrain independent and impartial commentary.” According to this order, this commission has been given an exclusive authority to regulate and make its own rules about telecommunication and broadcasting, the commission stated that: “The Iraqi Government is directly responsible for the adoption and development of a strategic policy in the field of communications and passing legislation on them. CMC will implement as an independent regulator these policies along with developing the related field policies.

  1. The Communication and Media Commission responsibilities are focused on:
    a) Regulating broadcasting and communications networks and services, including licensing, pricing, interconnection, as well as identifying the basic conditions for the provision of public services.
    b) Planning, coordinating, distributing and identifying the use of broadcasting frequencies.
    c) Regulating media designs and developing mechanisms for the press.
    d) Designing, developing, and promoting the rules of electoral media.
    e) Supporting and promoting vocational rehabilitation, and adopting professional conduct guidance on media topics.
    f) Developing and disseminating communication and media policies along with proposing regulations on the Government and relative bodies in this regard.[1]
  2. Under section 3, named “Establishment”, the commission granted an exclusive power to run the communication and media in Iraq and to enact rules, regulations and codes, regarding communication and media in Iraq. It says 1) “… The Commission shall be solely responsible for licensing and regulating Telecommunications, Broadcasting, Information Services and other Media in Iraq, and shall be committed to the principles of objectivity, transparency, non-discrimination, proportionality and due process in carrying out its duties.”[2]
  3. The new Iraqi constitution also has given this commission independence, attaching it to the legislation branch solely. Article 103 of the Iraqi constitution states: First: … the Communication and Media Commission, and the Endowment Commissions are financially and administratively independent institutions, and law shall regulate the work of each of these institutions. Second: “… the Communication and Media Commission shall be attached to The Council of Representatives”.[3]

II. The Function of the Communication and Media Commission.

Order 65 Section five has clarified and listed the functions of this commission. According to this section, CMC is required to run the media and communication work in Iraq, and it has the power to license media channels and telecom operators through its rules and process. The CMC “shall ensure that the radio frequency spectrum is used in a manner that recognizes the value and scarcity of this resource”[4] the Order of 65 did not require the written press to be licensed to work in Iraq, and that was consistent with developed countries rules.

  1. Licensing: After the invasion and demolishing the Ministry of Information, the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) was the only body authorized the licensing of media broadcasters and telecom operators. During that time, there were many mistakes, which had happened in terms of granting licenses or organizing the media and communications. According to a report published by the Annenberg School for Communication in the University of Pennsylvania in which has listed some examples of these mistakes,
  2. Broadcasters reportedly asked to submit sizable non-returnable application fees, whether they received a license or not. In addition, the mechanism through which the CPA initially collected and recorded fees was ad hoc, cash-based and ignored common financial controls. Moreover, some broadcasters received licenses without supplying even the most basic information about their operations, funding, staffing, and program schedules.[5]
  3. The Communication and Media Commission has published many rules, regulations, and codes. Licensing is one of these rules, the CMC emphasized that there are no obstacles to obtaining frequencies or licensing. CMC has clarified the process of granting license, it has listed the process that any applicant must go through in order to obtain license or to renew a license. The commission has promised to not ignore licensing to the media broadcaster, it has listed reasons to not grant licensing using frequencies including the followings:-
    a) The lack of frequencies.
    b) Avoid harmful interference with other communications services provided by any another service provider.
    c) If the issuance of license in using frequencies contracted with any of the Commission’s systems or as broadcast programs contrary to morality and public behavior.[6]

III. General Observation in the Respect of the Communication and Media Commission:

In terms of the recent establishment of this commission, there are some notes that should we look at.

  1. First, the terms morality and public behavior are still unclear in the legal environment in Iraq. These two terms might be used broadly and thus can prohibit a conduct or regarding to the morality and public behavior, as we will see later. The same Report by The University of Pennsylvania says “The CMC has apparently taken considerable strides in staffing its licensing department. However, the task of contacting and processing all broadcasters across Iraq has proven to be an extremely difficult one. As a result, a number of broadcasters remain unlicensed, and thus are illegally on the air.”[7]

2. Second, the CMC listed a note on its website states “CMC has the right at all times to omit or amend these principles and provisions to promote the public interest”[8] this clearly contradicts the principle of trust, credibility, and the ‘contract makes law’ principle, that each party is committed to make. In other words, the CMC is able to eliminate any obligation under the case of public interest. The head of Journalistic Freedoms Observatory Ziad al-Ajili believes that the commission should apply its law correctly; he says “The commission applies the law selectively and temperamentally”[9]

January, 2015 Marwan AlKhalidy
Meyer-Reumann & Partners, Erbil Office

[1] Comm. & Media Commission,  http://www.cmc.iq/en/aboutcmc.html (last visited Feb. 21, 2013)

[2] Coalition Provisional Authority, Order of 65:http://www.cmc.iq/en/pdfcmc/order65.pdf (Last Visited Feb 21, 2013)

[3] The Iraqi Constitution 2005 http://www.uniraq.org/documents/iraqi_constitution.pdf

[4] Coalition Provisional Authority, Order of 65:http://www.cmc.iq/en/pdfcmc/order65.pdf

[5] Monroe Price & Douglas Griny & Ibrahim Al-Marashiz, Toward an Understanding of Media Policy and Media Systems in Iraq: A Foreword and Two Reports, http://repository.upenn.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1058&context=asc_papers.

[6] Comm. & Media Commission,  http://www.cmc.iq/en/aboutcmc.html

[7] Monroe Price & Douglas Griny & Ibrahim Al-Marashiz, Toward an Understanding of Media Policy and Media Systems in Iraq: A Foreword and Two Reports, http://repository.upenn.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1058&context=asc_papers.

[8] Comm. & Media Commission,  http://www.cmc.iq/en/aboutcmc.html

[9] ئة الاتصالات والإعلام في العراق .. تدعم الحريات أم تعرقلها؟ http://www.rnw.nl/arabic/article/731411.

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