Iraqi Kurdistan authorities target journalists and media during demonstrations

CPT has documented the arrest of 34 journalists and media staff in Iraqi Kurdistan between 1-7 August 2022.

After the call for demonstrations from Shaswar Abdulwahid, the president of the New Generation Movement in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region, security forces from the three governorates of Sulaymaniyah, Erbil and Duhok began to arrest journalists, supporters of New Generation, and other activists who were supporting the demonstrations on 6 August 2022.

CPT Iraqi Kurdistan has been closely observing the KRG authorities and their security forces’ reactions since the call for demonstrations in Iraqi Kurdistan. Moreover, CPT has documented the arrest of 34 journalists and media workers from 1-7 August 2022.

On 6 August, nine journalists and media workers from Erbil governorate were detained. This includes Ayoub Ali, Abdulwahab Ahmad from Kurdish News Network, Rizgar Kocher, Herish Qadir, Omed Chomani, Kareem Kaify from NRT, Hozan Qadir, the head of Reporters Organization for Rights and Development, and Arshad Khalil and Kochar Mantik as freelance journalists. By the end of the day, all had been released.

From 1 August to 7 August, authorities arrested 21 journalists, reporters, camera crew, and drivers in Sulaymaniyah governorate and surrounding areas. This includes Karzan Tariq, Chinar Ahmed, Diyar Mohammed, Soran Mohammed, Mahmood Rizgar, Mohammed Rahim, Huner Faiaq, Shivan Othman, Briyar Ali, Adnan Said Husen from NRT, Abdullah Ahmed, the editor of Kurd News, Snur Kareem and Muhammed Nawzad from VOA, Zhiliya Ali and Azhy Abdulqadir from Diplomatic Magazine, Muhammed Mahmood from Dang Radio, Xalid Abdulkareem, the editor of Binar News, Sirwan Ghareeb, Arkan Abdulqadir, Zaniyar Mariwan, and Hevar Hiwa from Westga News. As of 9 August, all those detained have been released.

On 6 August, four journalists and media workers from the NRT Duhok office were arrested. This includes Taeif Goran, Sabah Yousif, Briyar Haji and Adil Sabry, all of whom were released on the same day.

CPT Iraqi Kurdistan met with some of the released journalists to discuss their detainment and current situation.

CPT seeks to draw the attention of the international community and partner organizations to the fact that all the 34 media workers were arrested without any court warrants, and 19 of them report being ill-treated while in Asaish prisons. Fourteen media workers were forced to sign unknown documents and were denied the ability to read the content of what they were signing. In particular, one reporter from Erbil was forced to sign a blank sheet of paper, through which authorities could create a pledge where the signature could be used against the journalist. Despite their release, the cameras, mobile phones and other equipment of nine media workers have not been returned by security forces.

Respecting press freedom and the role of journalists, reporters, and media workers is the responsibility of any democratic country. CPT is concerned about the recent escalation of the KRG authorities’ pressure on the press. We urge the Kurdistan Regional Government to create a safe environment for journalism work, where journalists and media workers will not be targeted nor fear retaliation.

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