The print press is booming here as newspapers rose from five government-run papers during Saddam Hussein's regime to around 150 now. But U.S.-led forces are dampening the mood of the free press by censoring it.
The U.S.-led administration here last week threatened to fine or close down any newspapers that incite violence or endanger the security of coalition troops or any ethnic or religious group. They will also shut down any publications supporting Saddam Hussein's Baath Party.
Coalition forces last week raided a distribution center of Sadda-al-Auma newspaper in Najaf, two hours from the capital. They questioned the staff and seized copies of an edition that ordered Iraqis to join the resistance against Americans.
The Americans defend their decision and consider it necessary for keeping Iraq safe and free of violence. They say the new papers lack responsibility and professionalism, and that they fabricate information. For example, one paper accused a coalition soldier of raping a woman and wrote that troops can see women naked through their night vision goggles.
Administrator L. Paul Bremer claimed at a news conference last week that Americans were not trying to hamper free speech.