Kurdish journalists around the world celebrate Kurdish Journalists’ Day on 22 April, marking the 125th anniversary of the publication of the first Kurdish newspaper, Kurdistan, on 22 April 1898 in Cairo.
The Kurdistan National Congress (KNK) celebrated Kurdish Journalists’ Day with a message on Saturday, paying tribute to the Kurdish media’s longstanding struggle for freedom, democracy, and social equality. In a statement, the KNK called on Kurdish journalists to uphold their professional responsibilities, saying, “It is therefore very important that all aspects of professional expertise, patriotism, and citizenship are strong in the personality of Kurdish journalists and that they fulfil their sacred duties on these three foundations.”
However, despite their contributions to freedom and democracy, Kurdish journalists continue to face persecution and imprisonment in Turkey, with 25 Kurdish journalists in prison on the anniversary of the first Kurdish newspaper.
Many more Kurdish journalists were imprisoned, but their plight goes largely unnoticed by the media and international community, wrote journalist Nedim Türfent on Saturday, in an article entitled “Indifference is like a boomerang” for the Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA). Türfent argued that if the arrest spree had touched journalists on the western side of the Euphrates, for example in Istanbul, professional associations, rights organisations, and politicians would have raised hell by now. However, as they are “Kurdish journalists after all,” they have received little attention.
Kurdish women journalists also celebrated Kurdish Journalists’ Day. Bêrîvan Tunç, a journalist working in the Mexmur refugee camp in northern Iraq, praised Kurdish women journalists who play an important role in informing the world about the experiences and resistance of Mexmur refugees, in an interview for Jinha News Agency on Friday.
Tunç drew attention to the attacks on journalists in the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region in the country, where dozens of journalists are still in prison. When a journalist in Iraqi Kurdistan reports on the realities of the people, the injustices done to the people, and the occupation of their lands, cities, and villages, they are attacked and many have lost their lives, she said.
Despite these challenges, Kurdish women journalists remain dedicated to revealing the truth and fighting for justice, according to Tunç, saying: “Kurdish women journalists, who reveal the truth, continue to walk in the footsteps of the truth.”
The Iraqi Kurdistan authorities’ attitude towards journalists has also been criticised by international organisations.
Press freedom watchdog, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), condemned the two-hour detention of two journalists of Rast Media by the Iraqi Kurdistan’s regional Asayish intelligence agency on Thursday.
Asayish officers also confiscated four computers, two cameras, books, and other reporting equipment of Rast Media, the CPJ said.
Separately on Monday, two unidentified men attacked a reporter and a camera operator of KNN TV in the Iraqi Kurdistan capital of Erbil.
“Iraqi Kurdistan authorities must immediately return all equipment confiscated from Rast Media and cease harassing its journalists, and ensure that those who separately attacked a team from KNN TV are held to account,” said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour, in Washington, D.C. “Authorities must do more to protect members of the press from arbitrary detentions and attacks,” he added.
In a statement, the Metro Center for Journalists Rights and Advocacy, a local press freedom group, said that the detention of Rast Media’s director and founder Omed Baroshky and editor Yasir Abdulrahman without a court order violated Kurdistan’s press law.
Baroshky was previously arrested in September 2020 and was imprisoned until February 2022 in retaliation for his posts on social media, according to the CPJ.