Beirut, August 25, 2023 – Iraqi Kurdish authorities should immediately and unconditionally release journalist Islam Kashani, disclose the reasons for his arrest and the raid on his home, and ensure the press can work freely, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Friday.
On Thursday, August 24, Asayish intelligence agents arrested Kashani, a host on the broadcaster Xabir TV and head of the local office of Speda satellite TV, at his home in the Iraqi Kurdish city of Zakho, according to a report by Speda as well as his brother and two of his colleagues, who spoke to CPJ.
Authorities did not present a warrant for Kashani’s arrest and raided his home hours after his detention. He remained in Asayish custody as of Friday.
The day before his arrest, during a segment on his Gulsen news program, Kashani criticized the Kurdistan Regional Government’s alleged corruption and mismanagement of public salaries, as well as the poor living conditions of local security forces.
“Iraqi Kurdish authorities must immediately release journalist Islam Kashani and ensure that members of the press are not arrested in retaliation for their work,” said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour, in Washington, D.C. “Authorities must end their pattern of detaining and intimidating journalists, and allow them to cover issues of public interest freely.”
Mahir Sagvan, director of the Xabir media agency, told CPJ that he called the Asayish after Kashani failed to show up for work.
“Asayish said they had no clue about his whereabouts and stated that he’s not in their custody,” Sagvan said. “After four hours, they raided his house, and told us that Islam was arrested.“
He told CPJ he believed Kashani was arrested due to his “consistent voicing criticism against the government and corruption of the ruling parties.”
Speda TV director Abdulkarim Ahmad told CPJ that Kashani’s arrest was “entirely unlawful with no justification.”
“We are sure that the grounds for his arrest are related to his journalistic activities,” he said. “He always stands with his people and criticizes the government and local authorities, but without any defamation.”
Ahmed Kashani, the journalist’s brother, told CPJ that “about four hours after his arrest, a vehicle carrying five Asayish members conducted a raid on Islam’s residence without presenting a court warrant. They conducted a thorough search and departed without seizing any items.”
He added that Asayish forces confirmed Kashani’s detention at the agency’s headquarters in Zakho but refused to give any reason for his arrest.
Speda and Xabir TV are both associated with the Kurdistan Islamic Union, a local Islamist party.
CPJ repeatedly called Zakho Asayish head Shvan Sindi for comment but did not receive any reply. CPJ emailed the Kurdistan Regional Government but did not immediately receive any response.