An International Conference on Freedom of Expression in the MENA Region took place in Tunis on 28-30 May 2014, organized by the Italian NGO Un ponte per…
A new Iraqi partnership emerged from it — the Iraqi Coalition for Freedom of Expression — that will focus on raising awareness about and taking action on issues related to freedom of expression.
The Iraqi Coalition for Freedom of Expression has a flexible, horizontal and open structure in which all members are equal in both their duties and responsibilities. The Coalition is one of a new generation of regional and international coalitions that takes into account the evolving nature of the freedom of expression and the many forms that the exercise of this freedom may take. Specifically, it includes traditional aspects of the freedom of expression as well as the right to access information through long-established means and online.
The Coalition adopted the following eight-point agenda:
- The Coalition calls on the Iraqi Parliament and the Iraqi government to suspend all further action on current draft laws that limit and obstruct the freedom of expression and access to information, including the draft Cyber-crime Law. These laws, copies of which are now in circulation, violate international human rights standards as well as the spirit of the Iraqi Constitution that guarantees freedom of expression. A strong, democratic Iraq must expand and support the rights associated with freedom of expression, not restrict them.
- The Coalition calls on state authorities to make copies of draft laws concerning the freedom of expression available to the Iraqi public, and to establish a means for open public discussion in which organizations focusing on issues of freedom of expression may actively participate. Rigorous, open, public debates about relevant laws, regulations, and legal mechanisms should occur before any proposals are sent to the Parliament.
- The Coalition requests that Iraqi authorities and authorities in the Kurdistan Region work with the Coalition to take responsibility for protecting journalists, media workers, human rights defenders, and bloggers, and ensuring they have a safe and proper working environment that allows them to perform their duties with full independence.
- The Coalition requests that Iraqi authorities and authorities in the Kurdistan Region address the phenomenon of impunity and prosecute those who have committed abuses and crimes against Iraqi journalists, media workers, human rights defenders and bloggers in recent years, whether these entities are governmental or non-governmental actors.
- The Coalition requests that the Iraqi government adopt the first amendment of the draft Rights of Journalists Law — already adopted by the Iraqi Coalition for Freedom of Expression — and present it to the Iraqi Parliament for debate.
- The Coalition requests that Iraqi authorities, authorities in the Kurdistan Region, and all media organizations work together with the Coalition to combat harassment of and discrimination against women in the media.
- The Coalition requests that the international community present the issues of freedom of expression, access to information, and the protection of journalists, media workers, human rights defenders and bloggers to the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Iraq in the field of human rights (expected to take place in Geneva at the end of October 2014).
- The Coalition requests that the Parliament of the Kurdistan Region amend the law concerning the freedom to demonstrate in the Kurdistan Region in accordance with international human rights standards and that the Government of the Kurdistan Region activate the Right of Access to Information Law that was launched in June 2013.
An invitation to join the Coalition is open to all organizations operating in Iraq and the Kurdistan Region. The Coalition will work actively to strengthen and protect the freedom of expression.
Tunis June 2014
Members of the Coalition:
Press Freedom Advocacy Association – Baghdad
Al-Masala Organization – Erbil
Iraq’s National Association for the Defense of Human Rights – Baghdad
Iraqi Network for Social Media (INSM) – Iraq
Azidi Solidarity and Fraternity League
Hawlati Newspaper – Sulaymaniyah
National Union of Iraqi Journalists – Iraq
Iraqi Women Journalists Forum
Iraqi Civil Society Solidarity Initiative (ICSSI) – Iraqi / International
Iraqi Democratic Future Network
For more information, please contact members of this Coalition or email the ICSSI [Iraqi Civil Society Solidarity Initiative] at: email@example.com