BAGHDAD: Iraq’s interior minister summoned dozens of journalists Wednesday to partially blame them for security force setbacks amid the war against ISIS, laying bare the Baghdad’s Shiite-led government sensitivity to criticism.
The comments by Mohammad Salem al-Ghaban, in charge of Iraq’s police, come after Reuters bureau chief recently left the country after threats against him by Shiite militias over a story about abuses and looting following the capture of Tikrit.
Ghaban also suggested that blame for the collapse of Iraqi forces last summer in the initial onslaught by the extremists lay at the feet of journalists.
“Most of the security collapses that took place were due to psychological warfare,” he told gathered journalists. “The media has a major role in creating this feeling among the people.”
Propaganda by ISIS militants, including their slickly produced online videos of mass killings and other atrocities, has been a major preoccupation of the government lately.
Several journalists present at the meeting told the minister he was blaming journalists for the government’s own security setbacks. They also blamed the government for never releasing timely information on the battles going on around the country.
Ghaban also dismissed complaints over the harassment of journalists as isolated incidents and promised the ministry would be more forthcoming with news.
Meanwhile, bombs around Baghdad claimed the lives of at least eight people, including some Shiite militiamen, police said. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to release information to journalists.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on April 30, 2015, on page 8.