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Freedom's limits

| Thursday, April 1, 2004

U.S. administrator Paul Bremer ordered padlocked the Al Hawza newspaper in Baghdad because, in the view of authorities, it publishes falsehoods intended to incite violence.

Among them was an assertion that an American missile, not a car bomb, killed 50 Iraqis on Feb. 10.

The weekly Al Hawza was a platform for Muqtader Sadr, a young Shiite cleric who opposes the occupation and has a taste for rumor-mongering, militia-building, illegal courts and torture.

Another newspaper, Al Mustaqila, was shut in July after it printed "Death to All Spies and Those Who Cooperate With the U.S."

By point of comparison, even the jurisprudence of the First Amendment does not protect the incitement of imminent lawlessness.

In fact, media are springing up all over, but they are subject to licensing and laws forbidding calls for murder and mayhem. And Al Hawza may reopen in 60 days. Mr. Sadr may have his views -- if the editors choose -- transmitted by other outlets less inclined toward the ongoing insurrection.

It is a measure of progress that a peaceful street protest against the paper's closing occurred and it was covered by other media during a military occupation.

In the meantime, Mr. Sadr, we are sure, will seek other ways to undermine liberty and the rule of law before and after the transfer of sovereignty to the interim government on June 30.

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