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Iraq: Whether it is legal to purchase and own satellite dishes in Iraq, and the sanction for owning satellite dishes if it is illegal

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada
Publication Date 18 December 2002
Citation / Document Symbol IRQ40582.E
Reference 7
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Iraq: Whether it is legal to purchase and own satellite dishes in Iraq, and the sanction for owning satellite dishes if it is illegal, 18 December 2002, IRQ40582.E, available at: [accessed 2 December 2015]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

In 2001 various news articles reported that the private ownership of satellite dishes in Iraq was "banned" (IPR 3 Dec. 2001; ibid. 9 Dec. 2001; ibid. 28 June 2001) or "restricted" (AP 5 June 2001).

In August 2001, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) reported that the Iraqi National Congress had estimated that there were approximately 100,000 satellite dishes in Baghdad, "mainly owned by citizens who have bribed Iraqi officials." The report went on to quote its Iraqi Service correspondent, who stated that

"[t]here are reports that some people inside (Bhaghdad-controlled areas of Iraq) enjoy watching satellite programs, but they are either close to the government, or members of the government, or rich people, and one has to apply for special permission from the government in order to get a satellite receiver. It's not easy – you should be very close to the government or very rich in order to bribe someone to get this receiver" (RFE/RL Aug. 2001).

This information is corroborated by an article published in September 2001 in The Florida Times-Union, which stated that "[o]nly the elite, mainly military officers and government officials, legally can own satellite dishes in Iraq" (4 Sept. 2001).

In December 2001, local newspapers reportedly published warnings from Baghdad to remind the public of the ban on the use of satellite dishes (IPR 9 Dec. 2001). The warnings also informed the public that "new sensors" imported by the government could detect the presence of satellite dishes "even if they have been concealed" (ibid.).

According to the IPR Strategic Business Information Database, Iraqi authorities occasionally carry out "large-scale operations with helicopters" to search for satellite dishes (ibid.). In December 2001, a person found in possession of a satellite dish was liable to have the dish confiscated, pay a "hefty fine," and face six months in prison (ibid.). Information on whether these sanctions remain valid today could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

However, according to an annual survey of press freedom carried out in 2002 by Freedom House, "[l]imited access to satellite broadcasting is permitted" in Iraq (2002, 32). In November 2002, British foreign secretary Jack Straw was quoted as saying that "[a]lthough Iraq has no free press, some Iraqis do have satellite dishes with access to international television and many listen regularly to radio stations broadcast outside Iraq" (The Guardian 27 Nov. 2002).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Associated Press Worldstream (AP). 5 June 2001. Elaine Kurtenbach. "Debate Over Ending Western Sanctions Against Iraq ..." (NEXIS)

The Florida Times-Union [Jacksonville, Florida]. 4 September 2001. "Iraq Restudy U.S. Policy." (NEXIS)

Freedom House. 2002. The Annual Survey of Press Freedom 2002. Edited by Leonard R. Sussman and Karin Deutsch Karlekar. [Accessed 16 Dec. 2002]

The Guardian [London]. 27 November 2002. Linus Gregoriadis and Michael White. "Straw to Seek Muslim Support Over Iraq." (NEXIS)

IPR Strategic Business Information Database (IPR). 9 December 2001. "Iraqis Warned on Satellite Dishes Again." (NEXIS)

_____. 3 December 2001. "Security Services Monitor Internet." (NEXIS)

_____. 28 June 2001. "First Internet Café Opens in Baghdad." (NEXIS)

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL). August 2001. Weekday Magazine. Charles Recknagel. "Iraq: Umbrella Opposition Begins TV Broadcasts." [Accessed 16 Dec. 2002]

Additional Sources Consulted

World News Connection

Internet sites, including:

Al Jazira satellite TV (in Arabic)


Human Rights Watch

Iraq Daily (7-16 Dec. 2000, no searchable archives beyond these dates)

Iraqi News Agency (no search facility)

Iraq Press (no search facility)

IRB databases

Search engine:


Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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