Iraqi journalist Omed Baroshky speaks to media after his release on bail on February 22, 2024.
Iraqi journalist Omed Baroshky speaks to media after his release on bail on February 22, 2024. He is facing jail over a Facebook post, having previously spent 18 months behind bars for his critical reporting on social media. (Screenshot: Zoom News)

Iraqi Kurdish journalist Omed Baroshky charged with defamation over Facebook post

Three police officers arrested Kurdish journalist Omed Baroshky from his home in the northwestern city of Duhok at around midday on February 22, 2024, on charges of defamation, the journalist and his lawyer Revving Hruri told CPJ.

Baroshky was released from the city’s Zirka prison at around 10 p.m. on bail of 3 million dinars (US$2,291) to await trial for violation of Article 2 of the Misuse of Communication Devices law, those sources said. He has yet to receive a trial date, they said.

CPJ has repeatedly documented the use of the 2008 law against journalists. Baroshky previously spent 18 months in jail from 2020 to 2022 under the same law because of his social media posts that criticized authorities in Iraqi Kurdistan.

Hruri told CPJ that the arrest stemmed from a lawsuit filed by Zirka prison authorities over Barokshky’s January 23 Facebook post where he said that a Kurdish prisoner, Mala Nazir, had been kidnapped from the prison and his whereabouts were unknown.

“Nazir’s family informed me that he was abducted. I published the news,” Barokshky told CPJ, adding the family were worried when Nazir was transferred from Zirka prison to Asayish prison in Duhok a few weeks before he was due to be released.

Nazir was subsequently released from jail on February 11.

Article 2 states that individuals who misuse social media, email, and communication devices to “slander, threaten, insult or spread fabricated news that provokes terror and conversations contrary to public morals” and publish private information about individuals that harms or offends them, can be jailed for up to five years or fined up to 5 million dinars (US$3,818).

Baroshky is the director and founder of Rast Media, a news outlet that was shuttered after the regional Asayish intelligence agency raided its Duhok office in April 2023. Since then, Facebook has become his main reporting outlet.

Irfan Barwari, spokesperson for Zirka prison, declined to comment on the case.