As the result of the conflict between the two co-presidents of the patriotic Union of Kurdistan PUK, one of the leading parties in Iraqi Kurdistan region IKR, more than 100 journalists and media workers turned jobless.
Considered as part of "organizing the media" of the PUK, media institutions affiliated to Lahur Shekh Jangi, first co-presidents, has been shut by Bafl Talabani, the second co-president, son of later Iraqi president and secretary general of PUK Jalal Talabani.
Bafl Talabani, and his brother Qubad Talabani, deputy prime minister of Kurdistan Regional Government KRG, has promised, following the events of July 8th when Jangi was ousted, that those journalistswill stay in officeyet their destiny has not been determined up to day.
The co-presidents of PUK’s Talabani and Jangi, have been in deep conflict since July 8 this year up November "turning their back to the party in the electoral campaign for general elections," while the media staff of the media outlets funded by Jangi are still awaiting for party instructions.
Journalists were part of the conflict, as per KirkukNow follow up, two media outlets have been completely shut, Zhyan (Life) News Network and Chaw (Eye) Platform. The editorial strategy has been shifted and in other media outlets the staff has been cut to half.
Zhyan News Network was the largest media outletwhere 74 journalists have been dismissed following the shutdown of the agency.
"The day the security forces attacked Iplus TV, we were informed that they were coming to our channel, so we decided to evacuate to protect our journalists' lives," said Karokh Namiq, director of The Life News Network.
IPlus channel, which was funded by Jangi, was seized by Sulaymaniyah security forces on July 13thbefore launching pilot test per instructions of Bafl Talabani. According to a statement by channel staff then, some of the employees were humiliated; their mobile phones were taken away and detained for a while. Later Bafl Talabani decided to let them work and now they receive their monthly salaries.
Zhyan News Network was based in residential complex in Sulaymaniyah, where the headquarters of PUK are, and funded by Jangi. The online news agency has 74 personnel posting stories in Sorani and Kurmanji Kurdish, Arabic and English.
"We were professionally reporting and even covering activities of co-president Bafl Talabani in a balanced way keeping in mind credibility in coverage of activities for both co-presidents," Namiq said.
"We were supposed to receive June salary in Mid June yet following PUK events, it was delayed. We talked to people close to Jangi whom said you will be paid by PUK general administration. We talked to Bafl Talabani office and met. They told us the agency won't be shut yet it will work per new policy and strategy."
Namiq said they were back to work and were paid for June yet office of Talabani told us they decided to shut the agency.
A source in the agency anonymously told KirkukNow for security reasons that part of its equipment was transferred by the security forces to other media outlets.
Besides, 10 experts of Facebook social media platforms working for Chaw Platform were dismissed as they were funded by Jangi yet its activities were suspended.
Namiq said that Talabani asked them to send their resumes and following submission of 50 resumes two months ago, they have not received any feedback yet.
"Our jobs were the sole source of income for most of us. We are all paying rents and have kids and we call upon them to clearly tell us to resume our jobs by funding us or start seeking for other opportunities," said a journalist of Zhyan network on the condition of anonymity.
Per the Kurdistan region press law of 2007, media outlets and its management's should provide its staff with all their privileges per effective laws approved by Kurdistan syndicate of journalists.
Part of the editorial team of these agencies were hired yet have signed no contract, Rahman Gharib, coordinator of metro center of advocacy for journalists' rights.
"We as Metro Center have talked to some of those journalists. They should have had a legal background in order to not to be employed without a contract," Gharib concluded.
On July 16th, Qubad Talabani said some websites and social media pages were shut yet their staff won't be unpaid or dismissed following a meeting with syndicate of journalists and Metro Center.
Zhyan Network said in a statement circulated to the syndicate, Metro Center, Committee to Protect Journalists CPJ, consulates and embassies, NGOs and human rights' organizations, that several media outlets were shut for affiliation to Jangi including Zhyan Network where 74 journalists were employed.
"Currently we are jobless and Mr. Qubad Talabani has not stood by his words which were only slogans because we were not only dismissed but even our media outlet was shut down, an unveiled violation of press law," the statement added.
We have turned the main victims for internal dispute between the two co-presidents
There is no article in Kurdistan press law addressing the stopping of broadcast of any TV channel and it is considered contradictory to press law which advocates for freedom of expression and press.
"We have turned the main victims for internal dispute between the two co-presidents," the statement concluded.
For other media outlets and platforms of Ajans, PolitcPrss, Millet, Kobas, all affiliated to Jangi yet paid by PUK general administration, the staff were dropped to half and its editorial strategies were shifted.
Kobas was clearly supportive of Jangi yet following July events, its current coverage is in favor of Talabani.
According to article seven of press law, the journalists have the right of termination of their contracts once basic changes are made to the policy of the agency or changes in the terms of the employment contract.
"The journalists are unemployed up today though Talabani pledged us yet unfortunately he has not kept his words," said Namiq who is striving to get back the rights for his staff.
A source from Bafl Talabani office told KirkukNow they will get back to the journalists in a month "as they are restructuring the media of PUK," yet he declined to declare further details about their plan and unpaid salaries.
KirkukNow has come to know that Qubad Talabani has asked media bureau of PUK to find a solution for those journalists yet is not clear per which mechanism.
In the last 20 years, 1,259 media outlets, including local and satellite TV channels, radio stations, papers, magazines and websites were registered by KRG ministry of education and syndicate of journalists which has 8,000 members beside 1,000 journalists working for media outlets without being member of the syndicate.
We called on PUK to fit them into its agencies per its capacity and current strategy
Anwar Bazgir, member of the high council of syndicate of journalists, thinks that "PUK as a political party has the right of reform in its media bureau and unify its discourse. Those journalists worked in those outlets handed a letter to us and we asked for proper solution."
"We called on PUK to fit them into its agencies per its capacity and current strategy," Bazgir added.
Metro center agrees that PUK has the right of restructuring its media yet it stands by the journalists who signed contracts of employment in Jangi media organizations.
"PUK has the right to make reforms in it’s the structure of its media which should be affiliated to the party yet it has no right to fire journalists who have contracts," Gharib concluded.