July 19, 2004 – The interim Iraqi government has lifted a ban on the popular Shiâ€™ite weekly newspaper, Al-Hawzah, though its publishers say the paper was about to be re-started anyway.
Then-occupation chief Paul Bremer originally issued the ban on March 28, claiming the newspaper incited attacks against occupation forces. US authorities had initially said the ban would only last 60 days, the New York Times reported at the time. But US authorities never lifted it, and the announcement of the change in policy by Iraqi officials yesterday came almost four months after the initial censure.
Al-Hawzah is run by associates of Muqtada Al-Sadr, the 31-year-old rebel cleric with a significant Shiâ€™ite following. The arrest of one of Sadrâ€™s deputies in March, the announcement of a warrant for Al-Sadrâ€™s own arrest, and the shuttering of Al-Hawzah, appear to have been some of the catalysts for months of increased violent resistance against the occupation.
Prime Minister Allawi, just hours after approving US air strikes against people in Fallujah, called the re-opening of Al-Hawzah an example of his absolute belief in a free press. The managing editor of the paper, Ali Al-Yasiri, revealed to the BBC that the paper had already planned on resuming publication anyway. "We fixed an official date to reopen the press centre... it seems that the government took note of this and then the prime minister's office issued that statement," Al-Yasiri said.