Iraq: Iraqi Kurdistan: Unprecedented attacks on journalists and media outlets during coverage of popular protests
The Metro Center for Defending the Rights of Journalists and the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) denounce the unprecedented attacks on journalists and media outlets in the Kurdistan region of Iraq in March 2018. Dozens of journalists have been arrested arbitrarily, others have been severely beaten and their equipment confiscated, while some media institutions were shut down.
In the past few days, security forces have carried out a systematic campaign targeting journalists and their institutions for covering the popular protests that started on 25 March 2018, demanding payment of their salaries, improved services and the elimination of corruption.
Reports received by Metro Center and GCHR indicate that a number of journalists were detained arbitrarily without judicial warrant, in unknown locations for a period ranging between a few hours to several days before their release. Witnesses confirmed that some journalists were severely beaten by members of the security forces who sought to prevent journalists from covering the popular protests.
According to other reliable reports, journalists Aras Aziz and Mutalib Khoshawe both of whom work for the Payam satellite channel, were arrested, as well as the correspondent of the Speda TV channel, Akar Fares. There were released later on.
A number of journalists were assaulted and severely beaten, including the correspondent of Speda in Duhok, Yaser Abdulrahman; the correspondent of the Xendan TV channel, Dilshad Hemo; and the reporter of the site Dawarozh, Hana Shwani, who was severely beaten while being held arbitrarily in a security center in Erbil before his release. In addition, Wrya Hama Karim correspondent of NRT TV channel, Dlbreen Sherwani correspondent of Kurdsat News, journalist Bashar Osman and journalist Sirwan Zebari were beaten after being arbitrarily detained, before being released.
In addition, security forces confiscated the equipment of some media groups, including those operating for NRT. In addition, the region's intelligence agency, Asayish, has suspended a number of media organisations, including the Khakber channel.
The Metro Center for Defending the Rights of Journalists and GCHR deplore this vicious attack on journalists, media and press organisations in the region. The arrest of journalists and the closure of media outlets poses a threat to the safety of journalists and the independence of their work.
Further reports confirmed that some protesters and activists are still detained while others have received threats from the security forces not to get involved in the peaceful protests.
Both the Metro Center for the Defense of Journalists and the Gulf Centre for Human Rights are monitoring the situation very closely.
The Metro Center for Defending the Rights of Journalists and the Gulf Centre for Human Rights call on authorities in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq to:
- Immediately and unconditionally release all detained protesters and activists, and stop threating law-abiding citizens including human rights defenders;
- Establish an independent inquiry to investigate the attacks against journalists in order to bring the perpetrators to justice;
- Respect press freedom in the region and protect journalists, so that they may carry out their work in a safe environment;
- Protect the right to peaceful demonstrations of citizens and prevent the use of force when dispersing peaceful gatherings; and
- Ensure that all journalists, photographers, online activists and human rights defenders in Iraqi Kurdistan, in all circumstances, can carry out their legitimate activities without fear of retaliation and without any restrictions, including judicial harassment.