Iraqi Kurdistan: KJS reports 73 cases of media and journalists’ rights violations in 2022

At least 73 violations of media and journalists’ rights, including arbitrary arrests, physical attacks, the closing of TV channels, and the confiscation of media equipment were recorded in Iraqi Kurdistan in 2022, according to a new report published by the Kurdistan Journalists’ Syndicate (KJS) in cooperation with the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ). The IFJ joins its affiliate the KJS in condemning the attacks on media freedom, which pose a threat to the democratic process in the region, and calls on the authorities to take action to guarantee journalists’ safety.

The head of KJS' Journalists' Defence and Press Freedom Committee and member of IFJ Gender Council Steering Committee, Nazakat Husain at the launch of the press freedom report in January 2023 in Erbil. Credit: KJS

The violations documented in the press freedom report include 19 arrests of journalists, 20 media coverage bans, 10 attacks and insults against media workers, 7 threats against media professionals and 7 confiscations of journalists’ equipment, among others. In all, 158 media organisations and journalists endured attacks in Iraqi Kurdistan in 2022.

Most of the media violations occurred in Erbil, the region’s capital, where the KJS registered 21 cases, followed by the governorate of Sulaymaniyah, located in eastern Iraqi Kurdistan, where 18 violations were reported, and the governorate of Duhok in the north of the region, where 16 cases were documented. 

A report on the ‘Conditions of Women Journalists in the Kurdistan Region’ was published alongside the press freedom report. The study, which acknowledges the increase of women journalists in the profession, reveals that female media workers have to overcome wage discrimination, structural barriers and stereotyping, mainly derived from social codes. 

The KJS organised a number of activities to enhance the role of women in media institutions, such as training sessions, closely monitoring the working conditions of women journalists, and conducting two surveys aimed at identifying the rights violations female colleagues experience in the course of their work.  

In 2020, the findings of the first study, which surveyed 1001 women journalists, revealed that 50% of the respondents endured sexual harassment and threats within the exercise of the profession. A second study carried out in 2021 involving 70 women journalists showed that 91% of them were subjected to violence and were prevented from practising the profession by their families. In the same vein, half of the respondents confirmed being subjected to harassment, being perpetrated by general managers and department officials in the majority of the cases. 

The KJS called on the relevant authorities to take concrete steps to halt media and journalists’ rights violations, particularly among women journalists. “The series of violations against journalists continues in the Kurdistan Region, and thus the freedom of journalistic work remains threatened under these circumstances. [...] In addition to the injury of a number of journalists, which is considered a serious phenomenon, witnessed last year, there are ongoing violations such as preventing the practice of the profession, discrimination at work, belittling and threats”.

IFJ General Secretary Anthony Bellanger said: “This pattern of attacks on journalists and the media by the security forces and law enforcement agencies has been recorded by the KJS  year after year.  The government of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq must make concrete efforts to put an end to these attacks. We also call on media organisations to respect equal rights and ensure the safety of women journalists.”  







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