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Iraq orders CNN, foreign journalists out

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- The Iraqi government said Thursday it is expelling CNN's Baghdad bureau chief, Jane Arraf, along with other foreign journalists and is enacting tough visa restrictions for admitting foreign newspeople in the future.

Arraf and five other non-Iraqi CNN staff members, including Correspondents Nic Robertson and Rym Brahimi, were told they must leave the country by Monday. Arraf is the only Western correspondent permanently based in Baghdad, where CNN has maintained a bureau for 12 years.

The move follows Iraqi government complaints about the reporting of several foreign journalists on assignment in the country.

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CNN's Jane Arraf reports on protests in which Iraqis are demanding to know the whereabouts of relatives after amnesty was given to prisoners. (October 22)
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Iraqi protestors angry about missing relatives gathered in front of the Iraqi Information Ministry in Baghdad. CNN's Nic Robertson reports. (October 22)
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Government officials expressed particular outrage over CNN reporting, specifically its coverage this week of an unprecedented anti-government demonstration outside the Iraqi Information Ministry in Baghdad.

Iraqi officials said they also objected strongly to the presence and reporting of a CNN team in Kurd-controlled northern Iraq.

The government invited in hundreds of foreign journalists to cover an October 15 referendum that officials claimed showed unanimous support for Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to remain in power.

Iraqi officials said that after the expulsions they will admit a small number of foreign journalists under tough new rules.

Those new rules will limit foreign news organizations allowed into Iraq to one non-Iraqi journalist per news organization, and each visiting journalist will be permitted to remain in Iraq for a maximum 10 days at a time.

Eason Jordan, CNN's chief news executive, said the planned expulsion is "a draconian measure that will sharply curtail the world's knowledge about what is happening in Iraq." Jordan said CNN stands by Arraf and all of CNN's Iraq reporting as "accurate, fair, and forthright."

Jordan dismissed as "absurd" Iraqi government allegations that CNN is a U.S. government propaganda service. Jordan added that "while CNN remains committed to reporting to the extent possible from Iraq, CNN will not compromise its journalistic principles in exchange for CNN access to any country."

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