Security forces of Sulaymaniyah storm a TV channel, harass the staff, detain the director for an hour, break some of its equipment, send the staff out and shut the channel following a discord over power among senior officials of a leading Kurdish party.
IPLUS TV channel, headquarters in Sulaymaniyah, is funded by Lahur Talabani, co-president of Patriotic Union of Kurdistan PUK and nephew of former secretary of the party Jalal Talabani, the late Iraqi president. The channel, under construction for the last two years, was shut on Monday July 13 ahead of its broadcast.
Two members of the TV staff anonymously told KirkukNow about 50 gunmen in military uniform at 7 pm stormed the TV office.
“In the beginning they asked us to evacuate but we rejected it as gave no any clarifications so they pushed the staff out by force then they broke some of the equipment,” a senior member of the TV staff said.
they pushed the staff out by force then they broke some of the equipment
“They broke one or tow doors and detained the director Hiwa Janmal and tow others whom were freed after less than an hour. Now all the staff are at home waiting for the position of Mr. Lahur,” he added.
Both sources confirmed the group have not revealed their IDs and took those procedures and “insulted the staff.”
The incident is an aftermath of the discord among PUK senior leaders lately popped up. Bafel Talabani, the elder son of late Talabani and co-president of PUK, have forcibly replaced two senior security officials in Sulaymaniyah few days ago for their loyalty to Lahur Talabani.
Lahur described the replacement of head of Counter Terrorism Service CTS and Intelligence Agency in Sulaymaniyah as “local, regional and Ottoman conspiracy,” in a tweet on Monday.
Bafel Talabani has amended his title on social media platforms of Twitter and Facebook into President of PUK while he and his cousin were elected by the party conference as co-presidents in October 2019.
A report released on June 2021 by bureau of democracy of US Department of State documented serious restrictions on free expression, the press, and the internet in Iraq including Kurdistan region, as violence against journalists, threats of violence, unjustified arrests and prosecutions against journalists, censorship, site blocking, and substantial interference with the rights of peaceful assembly.
The report accuses members of the security forces of committing numerous documented abuses.
Three hours following the incident, iPLUS TV said in a statement on its Facebook page that about 50 gunmen in military uniform and face mask held the staff captive fro an hour.
"They have taken some equpment and broke some others, unistalled the CCTV and shut the power off. After the y released the director and the staff, they deployed the gunmen in the channel."
I Plus called “on human rights and freedom of expression organizations, local and international, to condemn the uncivil act, the international representatives and consuls not to keep silent about this violation and ask the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) for clarification.”
PUK rejects the accsations by the channel.
A senior official of PUK told the Slemani News Network SNN and Esta, close to Bafel Talabani, the force tasked to close the TV channel is part of Secretray of PUK office and asked the staff to leave.
"The channel is owned by PUK and it is a media of the party not independnet since everything was procured by PUK money and resources and should be returned to PUK.
Following the closure of the headquarter of iPLUS TV channel, staff of Zhiyan Media Network close to Lahur Talabani, have evacuated their channel and currently are working online at home.
“We have been informed that we will be the next target so the administration has ordered us to leave office to home,” a member of the Zhiyan TV told KirkukNow anonymously for security reasons.
Kurdish members of the Iraqi parliament described the incident “militarization of Sulaymaniyah which should be ended.”
Sarkawt Shamsaddin and Ghalib Mohammed, said in a joint statement that “under the excuse of internal crisis of PUK, Sulaymaniyah is in an alarming and frightening security situation when Qubad Talabani, PM deputy, involved government security forces and militias of PUK in attacks against several media outlets dealing with the staff in a brutal way.”
“Tens of journalists were abducted and physically tortured in these offensives,” they added.
Zhiyan Media Network, Chaw Media Network and Wilat Agency are three of the media pltforms linked to Lahur Talabani whom evacuated their offices in fear of reprisal.
KRG law for journalism bans closure of TV channels or takeover. Article number eight of the law says “without judge order, journalists cannot be investigated or their work or houses inspected.”
without judge order, journalists cannot be investigated or their work or houses inspected
“Any violation against journalists while on duty, is the same as violation against a government employee,” article seven of the law states.
The Two Kurdish MPs called on Iraqi and international organizations for human rights and representatives the European countries and US to clear their stands about the political tension and freedom of expression as “regional intervention might lead to a situation out of control.”