Violence against journalists increases in Iraq

Sulaimaniyah, two journalists are taking pictures of teachers and employees protests in the city. Photo: Metrography Center


Two journalists detained and another was severely attacked over the past two weeks in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, happening at a time journalists face a surge of increasing violence in Iraq, which declined for a while.

The Dutch embassy in Baghdad issued a statement which states “Iraq is at risk of again becoming a place where journalists should fear for their lives” due to the killing of six people working in the media in the first three months of 2020.

Iraq is at risk of again becoming a place where journalists should fear for their lives

 This concern has been raised because, from 2016 onward, violence against journalists decreased compared to the previous years. From 2017 to 2019, nine journlists were murdered.

UNESCO figures reveals that at least 193 journalists have been killed since 1993, according to the statement. However, the non-governmental organizations statistics indicate that the numbers are even higher to a degree that “up to 50% of journalist killings worldwide during the ten years between 2006 and 2016 took place in Iraq.”

At least 193 journalists have been killed since 1993

The latest journalist who was arrested in Iraq is Harim Jaf, the Kurdistan 24 reporter in Kifri district, southern Sulaimaniyah.

Jaf, in the late evening of March 26, published a post on Facebook and criticized the security forces for their way of dealing with people who are suspected of being infected with coronavirus. The day after, based on a lawsuit filed by the security forces, he was arrested and later released on bail.

Also, since March 24, journalist Hemn Mamand in Erbil has been arrested due to publishing his opinion on the economic situation in the Kurdistan Region and he is yet to be released.

Mamand criticized the extension of the curfew because of the spread of the coronavirus, stating thousands of people are not able to go to work and suffer financially.

According the press law of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region, no journalist can be arrested because of his or her career and before filling lawsuits against them, the journalists syndicate has to be informed.

Kurdistan Region’s journalists syndicate, in a statement, said that security forces arrested Mamand in his house without informing the syndicate.


Hawkar Huessein, a journalist, is covering the war between the Peshmerga forces and Daesh. Photo: Metrography Center. 

In several Iraq provinces including Kirkuk and the other disputed areas, due the national lockdown, the security forces have made barriers for journalists to cover the critical situations.

On March 26, Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) revealed that journalist Adnan Rashidi was tortured, robbed and blackmailed on March 17 in Penjwen, a district in Sulaimaniyah.  Rashidi was forced to hand over the information the perpetrators wanted “after realizing that the attackers were also holding his wife and daughter, and had forced his wife to strip and filmed her naked.”

After realizing that the attackers were also holding his wife and daughter, and had forced his wife to strip and filmed her naked

Dindar Zebari, the Kurdistan Regional Government’s International Advocacy Coordinator, issued a statement in which he says the two perpetrators have been arrested and will be tried.

The Dutch embassy mentions Ahmed Abd al-Samad and Safaa Ghali who were tragically murdered by gunmen while they were covering social protests in the city of Basra.

The Embassy has also supported the Free Press Unlimited and UNESCO have worked on “UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity in close cooperation with the Iraqi authorities, media representatives, as well as national and international specialized NGOs.”

The UNESCO and FPU have supported the Iraqi National Committee for the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity. The committee was formed in 2016 at the order of Hadier Al Abdadi, the former prime minister. KirkukNow is a partner of the Free Press Unlimited.

CPJ data shows there are significant challenges and risks facing journalists in Iraq.

In October 2020, the theme of World Press Freedom Conference, which will be hosted by the Netherland and UNESCO is “Journalism without Fear or Favour.” The conference “provides an opportunity to journalists, civil society representatives, national authorities, academics and the broader public to discuss emerging challenges to press freedom and journalists’ safety and work together on identifying solutions,” the statement says. 

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