Iraqi Kurdistan: Union report reveals journalists faced abuse and arbitrary arrests in 2019

2019 was a turbulent time for press freedom in Iraqi Kurdistan, according to a report published today by the Kurdistan Journalists Syndicate (KJS).

Credit: IFJ

The KJS claims that the difficult political situation prevents journalists from covering the local news and exposes them to arbitrary arrests when reporting. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins the KJS in condemning all attacks on media workers and reiterates its call to the Kurdish authorities to guarantee media freedom.

According to the report, seven journalists and media workers were attacked by security forces while covering protests against a Turkish military base in January 2019.

More than 40% of all violations of rights recorded involved journalists being physically prevented from reporting the news. Twenty journalists have been arrested, which forms a quarter of all violations. Five women journalists were among the victims of the abuses.

Most violations occurred in the region of Sulaymaniyah, in eastern Iraqi Kurdistan. It was followed by Erbil, the region’s capital, and Kirkuk, located 238 km north of Baghdad. Kirkuk is a disputed region, as it is claimed both by the Kurdistan region and the Iraqi government. The report also highlights  that journalists in Kurdistan face restrictions and violence from two sides: from the Kurdish authorities and from the Iraqi military and the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), an Iraqi state-sponsored group of militias.

The IFJ urged the Kurdish president Netchirvan Barzani, to fight the impunity enjoyed by those who carry out violence against journalists, last December. Less than one in 10 murders of media workers are being investigated.

IFJ General Secretary, Anthony Bellanger, said: “The report shows a worrying trend in preventing journalists from doing their work. We call upon the authorities in the Kurdish Region of Iraq to ensure the safety of journalists, both local and foreignand for Iraqi and Kurdish security forces to respect the law which protects journalists' rights.”