Savan Abdalrahman – Iraqi Kurdistan
The Committee to Protect Journalism (CPJ), an independent, nonprofit organisation for promoting press freedom worldwide, addressed an open letter on 23 December to Masrour Barzani, the prime minister of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, asking him to respect the freedom of press.
CPJ calls on Kurdistan Regional Government Prime Minister Masrour Barzani to respect press freedomhttps://t.co/DA3vc0YUZy
— Committee to Protect Journalists (@pressfreedom) December 26, 2020
The CPJ expressed concern about the obstacles facing the press in Iraqi Kurdistan: “We write to express our grave concern regarding the recent deterioration of press freedom in Iraqi Kurdistan and call on you to condemn the recent intimidation of local news outlets and to do everything in your power to ensure they are able to carry out their work freely and safely without fear of reprisal”.
During the December protests in the Sulaymaniyah province and the surrounding districts the government reacted brutally against civilians, leading to the deaths of many protestors and the arrest of many others. The government also controlled the media channels in order to prevent coverage of the unrest. They blocked the main gate of NRT media for nearly two weeks and arrested journalists who covered the protests.
“We urge you to use your authority to bring an end to the harassment of broadcaster NRT, and to immediately release all imprisoned journalists”, said the CPJ in their letter. “These concerning developments blatantly contradict the Kurdistan Regional Government’s obligations under law. In 2007, the Kurdistan regional Government passed a Press Law that grants the freedom of the press and freedom of expression and publication, and states that no publication should be closed down”.
The letter goes on to state that “Between the current protests in Iraqi Kurdistan and the global COVID-19 pandemic, access to the latest news and analysis from a variety of sources is more important than ever, and it is essential that journalists and media outlets are permitted deliver the news without fear of retaliation from local governments”.
These demands come from Robert Mahoney, the Deputy Executive Director of the CPJ, and are directed to Masrour Barzani in order to remind the regional authorities of their earlier promises. “The Kurdish Regional Government has always prided itself as a beacon of democracy in the Middle East. During a meeting with a CPJ delegation in 2008, former Kurdish President Masoud Barzani pledged to create an atmosphere that is conducive to journalism and expressed his rejection of arrests on freedom of expression charges.”
Mahoney adds, “We urge you to live up to that promise by allowing the free exercise of press freedom in Iraqi Kurdistan”.