On August 21, 2019, in Topzawa, Iraqi Kurdistan, Asayish security forces affiliated with the ruling Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) arrested Roj News journalist Bryar Muhamad Mustafa, according to a report by his employer and a statement by the Metro Center for Journalists’ Rights and Advocacy, a local press freedom group.
Agents of the Asayish have held Mustafa, a Kurdish reporter whose employer is supportive of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), at the KDP Central Security Headquarters in Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, since his arrest, according to his employer’s report and Roj News editor Soran Hussein, who spoke to CPJ on the phone and via messaging app.
Agents arrested Mustafa when he presented himself at the Topzawa Asayish station in response to a summons, according to two statements by his employer. The agents accused Mustafa of working illegally as a journalist but did not announce any formal charges against him, according to those statements. In its statements, Roj News said that Mustafa had worked for them for two years and was an accredited member of the Kurdish Journalists Syndicate, a government-funded professional group.
Tariq Nuri, the Asayish director in Erbil, alleged that Mustafa was a member of the Peshmerga, the Kurdish military forces, according to one of the Roj News statements. Hussein told CPJ that Mustafa was fired from his job at the Peshmerga in 2016.
Hussein added that he did not know whether Mustafa was arrested in retaliation for any specific story, but said that he had covered Turkish airstrikes on KDP-controlled areas. Earlier this year, Asayish officers arrested freelance journalist Sherwan Sherwani, who posted videos about Turkish airstrikes in Iraqi Kurdistan, as CPJ reported at the time.
In its statement, the Metro Center for Journalists’ Rights and Advocacy urged Iraqi Kurdistan authorities to issue clear regulations barring active members of the Peshmerga from working simultaneously as journalists.
On September 6, Hussein told CPJ via messaging app that no one has been permitted to visit Mustafa during his detention in Erbil.