'This week a Iraqi court ordered the Guardian to pay 100m dinar (£52,000) for supposedly defaming the country's prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki. The ruling should outrage anyone who cares about free speech and fair reporting. Journalists in Iraq find their task difficult and dangerous enough without the government adding its own challenge by suing reporters through the country's court system. The article that caused offence would not have raised an eyebrow in an established democracy. But either Mr al-Maliki himself, or someone who believed he was acting in his interest, took exception to a piece of reporting by the Guardian's correspondent Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, which described fears inside Iraq that the prime minister was ruling in an increasingly autocratic manner.
...Maliki has repeatedly portrayed press freedoms as essential to nation-building efforts in Iraq's young democracy.
However, Iraqi officials have become increasingly sensitive to scrutiny of their achievements in the leadup to a general election, scheduled for 21 January.'