Zuber Bradosti, a Kurdish Iraqi reporter, has been detained since July 2019 over accusations that he contravened Peshmerga Ministry regulations by working as a journalist and a soldier. A local press freedom group says that Bradosti is being singled out because his outlet is affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which the ruling Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) views as the opposition.
Bradosti is a reporter for the pro-Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) outlet Roj News, where he covered Turkish airstrikes on the Bradost area of the Kurdish region in northern Iraq, where Turkish troops are stationed. According to his employer, he has been working for Roj News for nearly two years.
The PKK is a militant group and political party that is active in Turkey, Iraq, and Syria, that has been fighting Turkey since 1984, according to news reports. It is listed as a terrorist group by the United States, Turkey, and other countries. The PKK and KDP are political rivals. The KDP has often blamed the PKK for incidents in northern Iraq, including the storming of a Turkish military facility in January 2019 and the assassination of a Turkish diplomat in Erbil in July 2019, and the PKK accuses the KDP of collaborating with Ankara against them, according to news reports.
On July 21, 2019 members of the Peshmerga Halgurd Unit military force, which is affiliated with the governing KDP, summoned Bradosti for questioning in Bradost and then transferred him to Masif, a town near Erbil, according to news reports, the local human rights group 17 Shubat for Human Rights, and Roj News editor Soran Hussein, who spoke to CPJ via messaging app.
On October 6, 2019, Dindar Zebari, the Kurdistan Regional Government’s deputy minister for international advocacy coordination, told CPJ via email that as well as being a journalist, Bradosti was a peshmerga (Kurdish soldier) in the Seedakan Unit, which belongs to the Halgurd Command. Zebari said that Bradosti was arrested and placed under investigation because under Peshmerga Ministry regulations, working as a journalist is incompatible with being a soldier. Zebari said a judicial decision is pending on his case.
The journalist’s editor confirmed to CPJ that Bradosti is a peshmerga.
On August 21, following the arrest of Bradosti and Bryar Mohamad Mustafa, a Roj News journalist who also worked for the peshmerga, the local press freedom group Metro Center for Journalists’ Rights and Advocacy released a statement. The statement said that journalists at other outlets appeared to be allowed to also receive salaries from the Interior and Peshmerga Ministry, but journalists working for Roj News were not. The statement called on local authorities to issue clear instructions about incompatibilities.
Mustafa was released on September 15, 2019 without charge, according to Hussein.
On October 21, Zebari told CPJ that senior Peshmerga Ministry officials had informed Bradosti that working in the media was against Peshmerga Ministry regulations, regardless of a journalist’s outlet or affiliation.
The journalist’s editor Hussein told CPJ that as of late 2019 no charges had been officially brought and the journalist had not been brought before a court.
"This is the second time he has been arrested this year and I think that his arrest is related to his job as a journalist in the Bradost area," Hussein told CPJ.
Bradosti was previously arrested on March 17, when Asayish security forces, also aligned with the Kurdistan Democratic Party, detained him following his reporting on Turkish airstrikes in the area, and released him on bail several days later, according to Roj News.
Hussein told CPJ that Bradosti doesn’t have a lawyer. According to Hussein, a lawyer volunteered to represent Bradosti, but the family rejected him.