Iraq cancels TV show for insulting tribal sheikhs

 Iraq's media regulator also forced UTV to suspend a satirical programme after it aired an episode criticising alleged corruption in the armed forces.
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The promo of "Al-Kasser" ("The Predator"). (Photo: Social media)
The promo of "Al-Kasser" ("The Predator"). (Photo: Social media)

Iraq's media regulator has ordered the cancellation of a Ramadan television series accused of portraying the country's tribal leaders as salacious despots, following anger from politicians and local chiefs. 

After only three episodes, the Communications and Media Commission ordered private channel UTV to stop broadcasting "Al-Kasser" ("The Predator"), with the regulator saying in a statement Sunday it would work to stop anyone "seeking to undermine social stability".

Tribal culture permeates daily life in Iraq, particularly in the southern regions, with the judgement of local sheikhs often seeking to resolve disputes -- including arguments over land and marital issues. The weight of these decisions is often trusted over those of state courts.

The series had been criticised for its depiction of tribal leaders as backward tyrants, abusive of their power and obsessed with women, with parliamentarian Mustafa Sanad describing it as "an offence" to society in southern Iraq.

Sanad, a member of Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani's governing Coordination Framework bloc, released a statement Friday calling for the cancellation of the show, saying it "harms the reputation of our tribes".

UTV network, owned by the son of prominent Sunni Muslim politician Khamis al-Khanjar, said the station had been subject to anonymous threats and stopped broadcasting the series on Sunday.

Mohammed al-Azzaoui, a spokesman for UTV, confirmed the cancellation despite the series having received the "approval" of Iraq's actors guild. 

Last year, Iraq's media regulator also forced UTV to suspend a satirical programme after it aired an episode criticising alleged corruption in the armed forces.

Activists and civil society organisations have recently expressed alarm over the increased repression of freedom of speech by authorities in the conflict-scarred country.

In January, the interior ministry announced a campaign to target "decadent content" on social media platforms like YouTube and TikTok, which it described as breaching Iraqi "mores and traditions".

Some producers have been imprisoned, including local TikTok personality Om Fahad, who gained tens of thousands of followers by uploading videos of herself dancing to pop music.