Since March 19, 2020, unidentified individuals have threatened Kurdish Iraqi freelance journalist Amanj Warte, who contributes to the broadcaster KNN and the news website Sbeiy, after he published an article in Sbeiy on March 18 about alleged plans for a Turkish military outpost in Kurdish Iraqi territory, according to Warte, who spoke to CPJ via messaging app.
On March 19, Warte received a phone call from a number he did not recognize, and a man who spoke in the Kurdish Badini dialect, which is spoken in western Iraqi Kurdistan, told him that he had been warned in the past and his time was running out, he said.
Warte said the man told him, “We will find a solution for you.” Warte told CPJ that, since then, he has received additional threats passed through his family members, telling him to stop reporting or leave the area.
“After these threats I felt I had no choice but to call my editors and ask them to take down the article. I also deleted it from my Facebook account,” Warte told CPJ.
The article, a copy of which CPJ reviewed after it was taken down from Sbeiy, alleged that the ruling Kurdistan Democratic Party, which controls western Iraqi Kurdistan, had allowed Turkey to set up a military outpost in the northeastern Kurdish Iraqi district of Soran to help advance its military operations against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party militant political group.
Previously, in November 2019, Kurdish Asayish security forces arrested Warte over his coverage of Turkish airstrikes in the region for KNN and Sbeiy, and held him for 24 hours, he told CPJ. He said the security forces forced him to sign a letter promising he would stop reporting in the region as a condition for his release.
Rahman Gharib, coordinator of the Metro Center for Journalists’ Rights and Advocacy, a local press freedom group, told CPJ via email that journalists who cover issues such as Turkish military operations in Soran are often harassed or detained by local security forces.
Dindar Zebari, the Kurdistan Regional Government’s deputy minister for international advocacy coordination, told CPJ via email that Warte had not filed an official complaint over the threats, and said that further information will be available when the COVID-19 lockdown comes to an end.