New York, December 11, 2020 — Today, security forces affiliated with the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) party arrested Karzan Tariq, a reporter with the local NRT broadcaster, while he was covering protests over economic issues in the northeastern Iraqi city of Sulaymaniyah, according to his employer and NRT General Director Awat Ali, who spoke to CPJ via messaging app. Ali told CPJ that NRT lost contact with Tariq while he was covering the protests, but several eyewitnesses saw his arrest near the Sulaymaniyah Provincial Council building. He said the journalist’s whereabouts remain unknown.
Five other reporters covering the same protests were briefly detained; some had their equipment seized, according to local news reports, the press freedom group Press Freedom Advocacy Association in Iraq, and one of the journalists who spoke with CPJ via messaging app.
“Kurdish authorities in northern Iraq must understand once and for all that protests are events of public interest and covering them is no crime. In fact, they should do everything in their power to ensure that journalists can do their job safely and freely,” said CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa representative Ignacio Miguel Delgado. “We call on the local authorities in Sulaymaniyah to immediately release NRT reporter Karzan Tariq and to stop arresting journalists.”
CPJ emailed the PUK media office for comment but did not receive a reply.
On December 7, local authorities in Sulaymaniyah raided NRT’s offices and suspended the broadcaster until December 13, CPJ documented at the time.