IFJ demands immediate release of Kurdish TV reporter

The International Federation of Journalists has called for the immediate release of Gazal Avanas – a reporter for Kurdish TV station Sterk detained in Iraqi Kurdistan.   IFJ General Secretary Anthony Bellanger has written to the President of the Kurdistan Regional Government Massoud Barzani demanding Mrs Avanas’ release whose arrest he called “an appalling attack on the free press”.   Gazal Avanas, known professionally as Aysel Avesta - a journalist with Sterk TV - was arrested on 19 May between Duhok and Sengal by security forces of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). Mrs. Avanas was on her way back from Sinjar where she had been recording a TV programme on the situation of Yazidi women for the Kurdish television station Sterk TV based in Belgium.   She was arrested at a checkpoint in Duhok although she is a German citizen and has a residency permit of KRG. The KRG officials did not inform the German consulate in Erbil and her basic right to contact her family has been denied.   So far her employers and colleagues have received no explanation for her detention nor any information about her health and welfare. She is currently on hunger strike, increasing concerns about her health and welfare.   Gazal Avanas - a member of IFJ affiliate Ver.di in Germany - went to Sinjar to investigate the situation of Yazidi women after the attacks of Islamic State in August 2014.   Anthony Bellanger said: “It is clear she has been arrested because of her journalistic work. We strongly condemn such an appalling attack on the free press and demand the immediate release of our colleague. We further call on the authorities to respect and uphold the rights of all journalists operating in the region”. Update 26.05.2016: the journalist has been released

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