Journalists assaulted covering Iraqi Kurdistan protests

New York, April 20, 2010—Anti-riot police assaulted journalists covering two different protests in Sulaimaniya in Iraqi Kurdistan on Saturday and Tuesday. The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the attacks and calls on authorities to stop harassing journalists reporting in the field.

Several journalists told CPJ today that police prevented them on Saturday from covering clashes between security forces and students who had taken to the streets to protest the Ministry of Education’s decision to change the grading system in high schools. Among those obstructed were Soran Ahmed, reporter for the independent biweekly Hawlati, Shikar Mu’tasim, a reporter for the independent weekly Rozhnama, Aso Khalil, a reporter for Zhyar magazine, and Talan Kosrat, a cameraman for Zahmatkeshan television channel.

Ahmed told CPJ that security forces insulted and hit journalists, confiscated their cameras and ordered them to leave the scene. “They beat me, seized my camera and my phone, handcuffed me and forced me into a police van,” Ahmed told CPJ. He added that he sustained bruises on his chest and arms before being released within a half hour.

“Assaults on journalists seeking to cover public events are becoming increasingly commonplace,” said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator, Mohamed Abdel Dayem. “We call on the Kurdistan Regional Government to make it clear to security personnel that it will not tolerate attacks on journalists. The government must ensure that journalists are not attacked or threatened in an effort to censor coverage.”

On Tuesday, more journalists were assaulted while covering a protest in front of the building of the General Directorate of Education in Sulaimaniya. Hawzheen Gharib, a reporter for the independent daily Chatir told CPJ that authorities confiscated his camera but that they later returned it with a broken memory card. He added that at least three other photographers had their cameras damaged by the police during the same protest.