The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has learned with deep regret the ban imposed on two broadcasters, the assault on dozens of reporters and the killing of a journalist, in an extremely volatile political climate in Iraq.
The organisation expressed its strong concerns following the decision last week by the Iraqi media regulator, the Communications and Media Commission (CMC), to shut down the Erbil-based Rudaw TV and K24 TV, a flagrant violation of Iraqi laws and a politically motivated decision.
In the decree, which was appallingly sent to the Iraqi Defense Ministry, the National Security Council and the Intelligence agency, the CMC bases its decision on the outlets’ lack of proper licenses and their broadcasting of programmes “that incite violence and hate and target social peace and security.”
Rudaw, who allegedly did not formally receive this letter, has been operating in the country since 2013. It says its reporters are permitted and invited to cover the Iraqi parliament sessions.
The IFJ has always expressed concerns regarding the politicisation of the CMC, its control by politicians and its lack of independence.
“Iraq deserves an independent and professional regulatory body not only to regulate the audio visual sector, but also to support broadcasters in navigating through the country’s thorny politics”, said IFJ General Secretary Anthony Bellanger. “We call on the authorities to immediately lift the ban on these channels and allow them to resume work”.
In a separate incident yesterday at the Iraqi Kurdistan parliament, scores of reporters were attacked and detained for three hours by local militiamen. Several, including Ribwar Kakai from NRT channel, and Saleh El Harki from KNN, sustained injuries and had their equipment smashed.
There were fresh reports today of attacks on NRT offices in Dohuk and Erbil and the destruction of equipment and furniture.
There were also reports today of the killing of Rakan Cherif, a cameraman with Kurdistan TV. Cherif, who was 54 and had worked for the channel since 2004, was reportedly stabbed to death at dawn today by four unknown attackers. The attack took place at his home in Dakouk, south of Kirkouk, an area under the control of the Iraqi Army. He leaves behind his wife and three children.
“The Iraqi national and regional governments are accountable for the lives and safety of journalists living in areas under their control”, said Anthony Bellanger. “We expect them to investigate these attacks thoroughly and bring the perpetrators to justice”.