The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) called on the Iraqi authorities to avoid trampling on freedoms of the press, while Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemned the lack of tolerance for opposition media in Iraqi Kurdistan in a statement after security forces harassed and arrested journalists covering recent protests.
Shaswar Abdalwahid, leader of the opposition New Generation Movement, had called the protests on 5 and 6 August. The protesters called for improved wages for public servants, regular payment of pensions, job opportunities for nearly half a million graduates, the removal of certain taxes, and a reduction in fuel prices.
Another demand is for parliamentary elections.
Security forces used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse protesters and restrain journalists who were reporting on the protest. A journalists’ rights and advocacy organisation in Iraqi Kurdistan registered 78 violations against 60 journalists. At least 26 journalists were detained, 16 were prevented from covering the protests, eight were individually targeted by tear gas, and another 23 had equipment confiscated, according to the organisation’s report.
“Iraqi Kurdistan was once a haven for the free press in the Middle East, but now the region is a prime perpetrator of press freedom violations,” said CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa program coordinator Sherif Mansour.
“The brutality unleashed by the authorities against journalists and opposition media is unacceptable,” RSF’s Middle East desk said in another statement, denouncing “the flagrant lack of tolerance for opposition media” in Iraqi Kurdistan.