Media outlets and journalists face oppression from the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Iraqi Kurdistan, Hawar News Agency has reported.
Independent press workers have been – and are being – reportedly threatened with detention, arrests and even murder. According to ANHA, many journalists who have been reporting about corruption have reportedly been killed even as no effective investigations have been launched following their deaths.
Despite calls from legal organizations, the murders of journalists such as Kawa Germiyanî, Wîdat Hisên, Zerdeşt Osman, Soran Mam Hemê, Abdullah Rezaq and Tahir Şerîf have remained unsolved and no perpetrators have been brought to justice.
According to a report published by the Metro Journalists Protection Centre, journalists living in the regions ruled by the KRG faced 385 ‘incidents’ – listed as serious violations of rights – during 2020. Seventy four journalists were detained by the KRG without a court order. There were 42 recorded ‘incidents’ in which the materials of journalists were confiscated. Four press outlets were closed down. In addition to this, independent press workers have not been allowed to attend parliamentary meetings and press conferences which are normally open to the press.
“Parties have private press organizations. The public knows this well. Press organizations which describe themselves as ‘free’ also receive assistance to reveal the corruption of the other parties. The free press is restricted”, said Rêwaz Fayiq, the Kurdistan Parliament spokesperson in a 16 January interview with the Metro Journalists Protection Centre.
There has reportedly been no detailed report revealing the oil and money corruption nexus in Iraqi Kurdistan so far. Journalists who cover a number of ‘sensitive’ issues are also being subjected to various pressures. There are many journalists who have been imprisoned for reporting on these ‘sensitive’ issues. Media outlets that published stories and reports about the protests in Halabja and Sulaymaniyah were fined and some additionally received broadcast bans. The Turkish state is also reported to be a source of oppression against some media workers reporting from Iraqi Kurdistan whilst some media outlets known to be affiliated with the Turkish state have reportedly followed a pro-KRG agenda.