Judiciary spokesman in Iraq AbdelSater El Bayrakdar shared in a press release yesterday that libel and insult on Facebook are punishable crimes, and Facebook will be considered as a media platform from now on.
The justification for the new policy, according to the statement, is drawn from Article 4 of the Iraqi penal code (number 111 from 1969), which states: Insult is punishable for up to one year in jail and a fine not exceeding 100 dinars.
There have been court cases for online defamation before, says journalist Emad El Sharaa, most of which have been resolved among involved parties.
The fights online among political parties and sects have escalated after the execution of the Jordanian pilot Muath al-Kasasbeh last week and may have led to the new policy, explained an anonymous source from Iraq. This is an attempt to reduce people’s tension online, that will most probably fail, the source added.
Sharaa and others, such as the Iraqi Network for Social Media, worry that the decision may lead to increased restrictions on freedom of speech online in Iraq.