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'Electronic Armies' Threaten Activists, Media in Iraq

'Electronic Armies' Threaten Activists, Media in Iraq

Friday, 6 September, 2019 - 05:45
file photo of Iraq's Hashed al-Shaabi factions, AFP.

Iraqi journalists, activists and researchers are facing a wave of accusations and threats by online groups they suspect are linked to powerful pro-Iran factions.

Parties and armed groups in Iraq benefit from legions of supporters dubbed "electronic armies," which take to social media to anonymously sing their praises or mock their detractors, AFP reported.

One of these online campaign was launched accusing a broad range of Iraqi nationals of "collaborating" with Israel and the US.

A graphic shared by an Arabic-language page named "Don't Tread on Us" accused 14 Iraqis of "normalisation with Israel." Shared on social media, it named figures and some journalists, including Joumana Mumtaz and blogger Ali Wajih.

For his part, Wajih penned a rare open letter to Iraq's prime minister Adel Abdel Mahdi, Hashed chief Faleh Fayyadh and his powerful deputy Abu Mehdi al-Muhandis.

"For years, a group of us journalists and bloggers has faced incitements to murder by people and pages that may be close to the Hashed, or directly linked to it," he wrote.

Allegations they were "agents" or seeking normalisation with Israel, Wajih said, were "empty and silly".

Meanwhile, Omar al-Shaher, a journalist whose name was also in the graphic, said there was "not a shred of proof" to back up the claims.

"These days, it's more dangerous than ever to have your name associated with the Israeli camp," he told AFP.

Media rights groups are worried such incitement could lead to real violence.

On Thursday, monitor and a rights group called for better protection of journalists.

"The phenomenon of electronic armies has reached dangerous levels, issuing threats including incitement to violence and hatred," it said.

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