The violations documented include 47 media coverage bans, 42 arrests, 32 attacks and insults, 8 beatings, 4 cases of threats, 3 shutdowns of media, among others. In total, these attacks against the media affected 315 organizations and journalists across the Iraqi Kurdistan.
In one of the most recent episodes of the forced shut down of media the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) suspended the broadcasts of local network Nalia Radio and Television (NRT) for one week on 7 December 2020 for "irresponsible behavior", according to the Ministry of Culture and Youth.
Most of the media violations occurred in Erbil, the region’s capital, where the KJS registered 46 violations against media and journalists. It was followed by the region of Sulaymaniyah, located in eastern Iraqi Kurdistan, with 36 cases, and Kirkuk, a region claimed both by the Kurdistan region and Iraqi government, with 25 cases.
Around one in three media violations involved banning media organizations and journalists from working. 30% of the cases involved journalists being arrested, while 28% were attacks or insults against media workers. Seven women journalists were among the victims of the abuse.
The KJS said: “At the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis and the measures that accompanied it from the lockdown, we expected a significant decrease in the number of violations against journalists, but unfortunately, the rate of violations increased compared to previous years. Journalists were subjected to numerous violations while covering news related to the pandemic and following up on the conditions of the injured, and they suffered from bias when obtaining information”.
IFJ General Secretary, Anthony Bellanger, said: "The COVID-19 pandemic has brought more violence and job insecurity to journalists working in this region. We call on the authorities in the Iraqi Kurdistan region to take this issue seriously and better protect journalists. It’s their responsibility”.