Beirut, July 21, 2023 – Iraqi Kurdish authorities should immediately disclose the whereabouts of journalist Omed Baroshky and ensure journalists are not arrested for their work, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Friday.
On the evening of Thursday, July 20, Asayish security forces raided Baroshky’s home in the northwest city of Duhok and arrested him, according to news reports and two people familiar with his case who spoke to CPJ.
Before his arrest, Baroshky criticized the extended sentence issued earlier that day to imprisoned journalist Sherwan Sherwani at a press conference and called for protests against the decision, saying, “today it is against Sherwan Sherwani and me, tomorrow it will be against you and your family.”
As of Friday, CPJ could not determine where the journalist was being held or whether he had been accused of a crime.
“The arrest of journalist Omed Baroshky from his home in Iraqi Kurdistan is highly alarming. Authorities must disclose his whereabouts at once,” said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour, in Washington D.C. “Iraqi Kurdish authorities must stop their campaign of intimidation against the press and allow all journalists to work freely.”
Baroshky is director and founder of Rast Media, an outlet that was shuttered after Asayish forces raided its Duhok office in April.
Mahir Baroshky, Omed’s brother, told CPJ that authorities arrested the journalist at about 9 p.m.
“We don’t know about his whereabouts yet and haven’t been notified by Asayish forces,” he said.
Ayhan Saeed, the Dohuk representative of local press freedom group Metro Center for Journalists’ Rights and Advocacy, told CPJ that Baroshky’s arrest was part of “a pattern in Duhok” of authorities arbitrarily arresting people.
Baroshky was previously arrested in September 2020 and was imprisoned until February 2022 in retaliation for his posts on social media. Earlier this month, Baroshky told CPJ that Rast Media remained shuttered even though the outlet had acquired the necessary license to resume work. He added that Asayish forces had not returned equipment confiscated during the raid on the outlet in April.
In an interview with CPJ after the closure of his outlet, Baroshky told CPJ that “freedom of media and freedom of expression in Iraqi Kurdistan are an illusion.” CPJ has documented numerous incidents of journalists being attacked, arrested, or detained in Iraqi Kurdistan. In 2021, Niyaz Abdullah – a CPJ International Press Freedom Award honoree – fled to France to escape threats against her after criticizing Kurdish Prime Minister Masrour Barzani’s crackdown on press freedom.
CPJ repeatedly called Duhok Asayish director Zeravan Baroshki and regional government spokesperson Peshawa Hawramani for comment but did not receive any replies. CPJ emailed the prime minister of Kurdistan’s office but did not receive any response.
After the publication of this article, Baroshky was released late Friday, July 21, at the request of Kurdish regional Prime Minister Masrour Barzani, according to a statement by the Duhok government. Baroshky told CPJ on Saturday that authorities had released him on bail and had not specified the reason for his detention or questioned him while he was in custody.
[Editors’ note: This article has been updated in its final paragraph to note Baroshky’s release.]