Widespread attacks against journalists and their organizations
Since the protest movements in Kurdistan began, they have been overwhelmingly peaceful as teachers and professors demanded payment of their salaries, which have been withheld for four months. Over time, the protests evolved into strikes from work, and then turned into major demonstrations that not only demanded salaries for workers, but called also for resolving the political crisis that has gripped the region and also the problem of the presidency.
Then recently, The Metro Center for Defending Journalists’ Rights in the Kurdistan Region began receiving dozens of complaints from journalists and media organizations about widespread attacks against them during their coverage of the demonstrations.
These assaults included preventing journalists and media teams from accessing the place of demonstrations, the confiscation of journalists’ property, destruction of their working equipment including cameras, and the beating and wounding of some journalists. A number of them suffered suffocation and fainting as a result of the security forces use of tear gas; others were subjected to insults and offensive words, and even detention.
The attacks did not end here, but widened to include attacks on press institutions. Angry protesters attacked the headquarters of the Rudaw Channel in the city of Sulaymaniyah, and smashed the glass of the building façade; only the speed of the security forces in arriving at the location saved the channel employees whose lives were at risk. At the same time, security forces raided the headquarters of Nalia Channel in the cities of Erbil and Dohuk, detaining all the workers, and deporting them to the city of Sulaymaniyah. Security forces also shut down the headquarters of the KNN Channel in Erbil, Dohuk and Soran, informing their employees that they are forbidden from working in media in these cities!
It is worth emphasizing that these attacks against journalists were carried out by both the security forces and the demonstrators. They included journalists who were working in independent media facilities and satellite channels, and those linked to political parties, including attacks against journalists from NRT, Spêda, Geli Kurdistan, KNN, WAAR, Zagros and Rega Channels and some from electronic websites.
The undersigned organizations strongly condemn these attacks against journalists and their organizations the aim of whose work is to report the truth to a broad segment of the community and to serve the public interest. At the same time, we demand that the authorities take all necessary measures to stop these attacks and to hold all perpetrators accountable to the full extent of the law. We call on both the security forces and citizens to cease thinking of journalists as their enemies. Journalists, in most cases, seek to deliver information and facts to citizens in order to advance their interests.
- The National Union of Iraqi Journalists
- Press Freedom Advocacy Association in Iraq
- Journalist Freedoms Observatory
- Iraqi Media House
- Metro Center for Defending Journalists’ Rights