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CPJ: Journalist assailants in Kurdistan have full immunity

By Hakeem Faraj

Kurdistan, has often been praised by many in the West for its democratic values, but is that praise is fully deserved?

Zryan Mohammad is one of several journalists who have been arrested by partisan security forces for the coverage of Coronavirus lockdown.

Representative of the Committee to Protect journalists in Middle East Ignacio Delgado says Kurdistan’s journalism law is one of the best laws in the region, but it is never implemented.

The government has also targeted a major media outlet, the NRT TV channel, calling for its closure.

NRT reported the government has used the pandemic to delay paying the salaries of public employees. Some have not been paid for 5 months.

journalism law is never implemented

One of the NRT reports that put the channel in security services sights. But it does not end there – some journalists are arrested only for criticizing the government in a Facebook post.

In the last decade several journalists have been killed, tortured and arrested mainly by partisan security forces loyal to the two ruling parties: PDK and PUK, while assailants have full immunity.

last October, NRT presenter Amanj Babani, his wife and their son were killed in their car. Forces linked to the PUK in Slemani claimed he killed his family and committed suicide. But security forces loyal to PDK in the capital city of Erbil claimed to have evidence the family were actually murdered by the order of PUK co-leader Lahour Talabani and his brothers. PDk forces themselves are accused of kidnapping and killing Sardash Osman who criticized family ruling, especially Barzanis.

Journalist Amanj Babani, his wife and son

Since 2008, there have been at least four journalists in the Kurdistan Region whose murderers have not been prosecuted: Soran Mama Hama (2008), Sardasht Osman (2010), Kawa Garmiani (2013), and Wadat Hussain (2016). Security officials in Kurdistan found neither the perpetrators nor the motive behind their murders.

CPJ stated “unchecked corruption, ineffective institutions, and lack of political will to pursue robust investigations are all factors behind impunity”.

Iraq, including Kurdistan, is one of the dangerous places for journalists. Since Saddam Hussein’s removal in 2003, at least 155 journalists have been killed and nine have been missing.

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