The first months of this year have been grim for free speech in Iraq.
As revolts swept across the Middle East and North Africa, they spread to Iraqi cities and towns, but took on a very different cast.
In February, in places like Baghdad, Fallujah, Mosul and Tikrit, protesters took to the streets, intent on reform - focused on ending corruption and the chronic shortages of food, water, electricity and jobs - but not toppling the government of prime minister Nuri al-Maliki.
The response by government security forces, who have arrested, beaten, and shot protesters, leaving hundreds dead or wounded, however, was similar to that of other autocratic rulers around the region.
Attacks by Iraqi forces on freedom of the press, in the form of harassment, detention, and assaults on individual journalists, raids of radio stations, the offices of newspapers and press freedom groups have also shown the dark side of Maliki's regime.
Many journalists have been prevented from covering protests or have curtailed their reporting in response to brutality, raising the spectre of a return to the days of Saddam Hussein's regime when press freedom was a fiction.
Maliki's US allies, however, have turned a blind eye to the violence and repression, with the top spokesman for the US military in Iraq praising the same Iraqi units which eyewitnesses have identified as key players in the crackdown while ignoring the outrages attributed to them.
In addition to providing training to these units, the US military is currently focused on upgrading the capabilities of the Iraqi security forces, including the creation a national intelligence and operations centre and more sophisticated use and understanding of social media, which some fear may further increase state repression.
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