On Tuesday, the Committee to Protect Journalists expressed its concerns over the press freedom climate in Iraqi Kurdistan at a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. where we launched our special report, “Mountain of impunity looms over Kurdistan journalists.” You can watch a video of the press conference here.
The report (also available in Arabic and Kurdish) looks at how attacks on journalists–including the murders of Rayel Editor-in-Chief Kawa Garmyane and Ashtiname contributor Sardasht Osman and the arson attack against private broadcast network Nalia Radio and Television (NRT)–have gone unpunished. Furthermore, journalists who cover public demonstrations or who dare to mention specifics about corruption cases have been threatened, beaten, harassed with lawsuits, jailed, or had their offices torched.
“Killing of journalists is the ultimate form of censorship… If there is no immediate and serious response by the government, journalists feel threatened and self-censor,” I told the press conference. “For every journalists killed or imprisoned, dozens more are silenced.”
Namo Abdullah, the author of the report, highlighted the need to uphold the rule of law and called on the government to live up to its responsibilities.
“The problem we have in Kurdistan is the law is not enforced when it comes to journalists. In a region heavily dependent on western protection and foreign investment, the issue of impunity should be solved,” Abdullah said.
CPJ is sending a mission to Iraqi Kurdistan in the third week of May to engage with senior officials in the government and follow up with local partners, civil society organizations, and media outlets about the report’s findings and recommendations.