Even ordinary people miss no opportunity to attack journalists

Hadi Salimi, correspondent of Erbil-based Rudaw TV, was beaten by 10 people while covering Erbil restaurant fire.

By Firman Sadiq in Erbil

"First, they were 3-4 people all kicking and boxing me and later turned into about 10," Hadi Salimi, correspondent of Erbil-based Rudaw TV, recalled how he was attacked by workers of a restaurant while covering the fire accident inside the restaurant.

Salimi said the medical report by the hospital showed the upper right lid was torn and stitched by three sutures.

On November 11th, Zirak Fish Restaurant in Erbil was burnt about 9 pm. A group of reporters, including correspondents of Rudaw Media Network, Nalia Radio and Television NRT and Erbil live wanted to cover the event on air yet they were attacked.

 How the assault was intrigued?

Salimi and his cameraman have made it to the restaurant about 9.45 pm to launch a live coverage as the flames were blazing the restaurant.

"I came out of the car and went into the rest. We wanted to go live but the staff said no camera allowed so we returned to our car. Before leaving, about 4 people attacked us and later they have increased up to 10," Salimi recalls.

"One of them was son of the owner. They were kicking, boxing and slapping us. Emergency police rescued me."

Meanwhile, the rest staff headed to beat Namo Mohammed, cameraman of NRT, and Shivan Harki, correspondent of Erbil Live, a Facebook page.

Salimi and Rudaw have filed two lawsuits against the restaurant owner and staff.


Footage of the Erbil restaurant fire by Rudaw TV.

Murad Sourchi, reporter of NRT said son of the owner and the staff told us not to cover the fire event. "The owner was very nice to us but later they attacked Rudaw correspondent and our cameraman as well."

"They hurt the arm of our cameraman Namo Mohammed in a way that he could not work for three days."

Shivan Harki, reporter of Erbil Live, said once they saw his camera, "six of the rest staff attacked me but fortunately fire brigade there stopped them and I left without any coverage.

The case of attacking journalists trying to cover Erbil restaurant fire was the second since August 11th when Mukhtar of a neighborhood in Erbil and a brother of him banned coverage of protests by NRT and Speda TV and broke their cameras.

Reports by Kurdistan Journalists' Union show that 315 cases of violations against journalists were registered last year.

"Now we are glad to see police or security forces around when we cover an event or incident at least to protect us in case attacked by the crowd," Sourchi added.

Now we are glad to see police or security forces around when we cover an event or incident at least to protect us in case attacked by the crowd

Four organizations condemned the way the restaurant staff behaved toward the media and called on the reporters to insist on their lawful rights.

Organization of Reporters to defend journalists said in a press release following the incident denouncing the act.

"People attacking media have turned from separate incidents into a phenomenon. Violence against media is ongoing: cameras and equipment confiscated, stopped from coverage, arrested and detained with no court order."

The organization accuses court of being inactive. "No progress in the case of the Mukhtar but we won't keep silent."

Metro Center and Organization to Defend Press Freedom called in a joint statement for serious investigations.

"The staff of the restaurant all together humiliated the journalists. They were beating them by hand, bars and cooking tools," said the statement by Metro.

 Jasana Organization for freedom of press and media said "we cannot keep silent against such a violation. Continuous crackdown by the security forces against media has made it an ordinary scene and emboldened people not to show respect for it and never hesitate attacking it."

It has encouraged the reporters to file lawsuits against any violation they face.

Nazakt Hussein, head of committee to defend journalist in Kurdistan Journalists' Union, told KirkukNow, "some reporters when attacked, they do not contact our committee which has a Viber chat group to inform us."

Hussein said if they are not contacted, they can't release statement.

Owner of the restaurant, Haji Shakahawan, said they politely told all not to cover the incident. "There were people also who stopped media from coverage. I myself visited Rudaw TV and talked to Salimi and the director. I apologized to them."

"We asked him to film so he left but again installed his camera and I have no idea what happened next because they were behind the fire brigade truck and away from the rest."

According to Iraqi Kurdistan press law, reporters have the right to attend any conference, gathering and cover the events without any barriers.

Reporters blame the security forces as Salimi says emergency police were available yet have not arrested any one of those who assaulted him.

"It is a dangerous precedent for people to attack a reporter in front of the eyes of police and the government."

"According to law, police is not authorized any one unless arrest warrant out by court. Once there is a lawsuit, suspects are arrested per court warrants."

Owner of the restaurant has urged the reporters to drop their cases at court.


Footage of the press conference by Organization of Reporters which filed a lawsuit against owner of the restaurant by Diplomatic Magazine


"Owner of the restaurant tried couple of times through some people to drop my case and make a deal out of court but I told them now it's up to Organization of Reporters and their lawyer," Harki said.

Rudaw TV has agreed to withdraw its lawsuit but Salimi has not agreed to the calls of the restaurant owner.

NRT reporter has not filed a lawsuit because "they lost trust in courts."

"Our previous suit against Mukhtar of Badawa is not in progress so we do not trust court and the security forces to follow our case," Sourchi hopelessly said.  

Kochar Ali Mantik, representative of Organization of Reporters, said in a press conference in front of Erbil court on November 14th they have filed lawsuit against owner and staff of the restaurant "and support the lawsuits by Shivan Harki and Hadi Salimi."

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