- Associated Press - Monday, September 2, 2019

BAGHDAD — Iraqi authorities on Monday suspended the license of a U.S.-funded TV station for three months after it aired a program on alleged corruption within Iraq’s Sunni and Shiite religious establishments.

The investigative report that aired on Saturday on Alhurra accused senior religious figures of benefiting from businesses as a result of their connections with the state.

The report triggered an outcry on social media with some politicians demanding that the station’s offices in Iraq be closed down.

The Communication and Media Commission, the country’s media regulator, demanded Monday a public apology from Alhurra and suspended its work for three months, accusing it of bias and defamation in its report.

In a statement, Alhurra described its report as “fair, professional and balanced.” It said it had given ample opportunity for those mentioned in the report to respond, but that they had refused.

It said the station is committed to accuracy, impartiality and objectivity.

“Given the political, economic and social challenges facing the region, transparency and honesty in media reporting are urgently needed,” it said.

The report alleged widespread corruption within the state’s Sunni and Shiite Muslim endowments, which administer religious holy sites and real estate.

The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad said the State Department has no censorship authority over the content of Alhurra.

The statement published by Alhurra also said the Iraqi government had the right to respond and hold accountable any report it deemed to contain inaccurate or unprofessional information.

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