Omed Haje Baroshky

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Kurdish police arrested Kurdish Iraqi freelance reporter Omed Baroshky in the city of Duhok on September 13. His arrest came hours after he was released on bail following a 27-day detention for allegedly violating a law forbidding the misuse of communication devices. The new arrest is part of an investigation into a new violation of the same law. CPJ has been unable to determine whether Baroshky has been charged in either case.

Baroshky became a freelance reporter after he left his job at news website Prs media, which is affiliated with the opposition Kurdistan Islamic Union. Baroshky posted on Facebook about his decision to leave the outlet on June 1, though did not explain why. From June until his arrest, he contributed to outlets including the opposition broadcaster NRT, which is owned by Shaswar Abdulwahid, a businessperson and leader of the opposition New Generation Party, according to news reports. Baroshky describes himself as both a journalist and activist on his personal Facebook account, which counts more 1,500 followers, and where he often posts criticism of the ruling Kurdistan Democratic Party.

Baroshky was arrested on September 13 after police summoned him to the Nawroz Police Station in Duhok hours after he had been released on bail from a nearly month-long detention, according to Aihan Saeed, the Duhok representative of the Metro Center for Journalists’ Rights and Advocacy. Baroshky’s bail was three million Iraqi dinars (US$2,500) according to Saeed. 

Dindar Zebari, the regional government’s coordinator for international advocacy, told CPJ in September that Baroshky was re-arrested on the grounds of a new lawsuit against him for again allegedly violating the law on misuse of electronic devices. CPJ was unable to determine who filed the new lawsuit. If charged and convicted, he could face up to five years in prison and a fine of up to five million Iraqi dinars (US$4,200), according to the law. 

Zebari did not specify what Baroshky allegedly did to break the law. According to CPJ’s review of Baroshky’s Facebook page, he posted just once in the period between his release and his rearrest, when he wrote: “Just like other arrests, this arrest was no doubt made because they are afraid of the freedom-loving, rights-wanting people of Badinan and they tried to silence Badinan’s dissent.” Badinan is another name for Duhok and adjacent areas where the Kurdish Badini dialect is spoken.

Saeed told CPJ that the journalist has not been provided access to a lawyer. CPJ was unable to determine where the journalist is being held.

Saeed told CPJ he believes that Baroshky was initially arrested on August 18 for two social media posts, one a video on Facebook that shows Kurdish security forces raiding the home of activist Badal Barwary. According to Saeed, the video was shot by Barwary’s daughter, who provided it to Baroshky, and depicts a black screen with audio of a woman’s scream. In another Facebook post the same day Baroshky wrote that the KDP security forces broke Barwary’s son’s hand during the raid.

Since early 2020, protests have been ongoing in Kurdistan over unpaid salaries for public servants and lack of services. Journalists covering these protests have been assaulted by Kurdish security forces and often arrested, as CPJ has documented.

Baroshky was detained by police while covering a teachers protest in May and held for six days in Duhok, as CPJ documented. On August 13, he was assaulted by security forces while covering a ceremony to commemorate the murder of journalist Widad Hussein, CPJ documented.

Zebari did not reply to a follow up email sent by CPJ in November 2020 asking where Baroshky is being held and whether any dates have been set for a hearing or a trial.