A Kurdish journalist has been detained for about ten hours in a police station in Erbil due to lawsuit filed by a doctor for using a video of his clinic for a TV report.
Ayoub Warty, Erbil correspondent of Sulaymaniyah-based Kurdish News Network KNN TV channel, was released on bail of two million Iraqi dinars IQD (USD1,350) after protesting against his arrest.
The report, entitled "The Story of the Two Sisters Victims of a Plastic Surgeon," was published on KNN on April 9, saying the doctor "sexually assaulted two sisters following rhinoplasty surgery.
According to KirkukNow follow up, the same doctor filed a complaint against Ayoub Warty for using the video of his clinic, saying, "The report has nothing to do with our clinic and our name has been defamed.
On Monday, July 18, Ayoub Warty went to the Bakhtiari police station in Erbil, capital of Kurdistan region of Iraq KRI, and was detained per judge order.
"Ayoub has been brought to court for allegedly defaming the doctor and his nursing home," Bashdar Hassan, Ayoub Warty's lawyer, told KirkukNow.
"We spent more than two hours in front of the investigating judge's room in the Erbil court to see Ayoub’s case and call us, but the judge did not do so in order to detain him at the police station overnight,” Hassan added.
The local and international organizations, human rights advocates members of the Iraqi and Kurdistan parliaments MPs continuously express their grave concern that the journalists and the freedom of press are increasingly under threat all over Iraq including the KRI.
“A media environment in which press outlets were closely affiliated with specific political parties and ethnic factions, an opaque judiciary, and a still-developing democratic political system combined to place considerable restrictions on freedom of expression, including the press,” said the 2021 Human rights practices in Iraq by the US department of State, out early April 2022.
Iraq currently ranks 163rd out of 180 countries on the World Press Freedom Index. All the killers of murdered journalists in the KRI have operated with impunity, according to CPJ’s 2021 Global Impunity Index where Iraq is ranked third.
Iraq section of the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Iraq in 2021, by the Bureau of Democracy, human rights and labor, documented human rights issues based credible reports of: serious restrictions on free expression and media, including violence or threats of violence against journalists, unjustified arrests and prosecutions against journalists; serious restrictions on internet freedom; substantial interference with the freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of association.
Ayoub Warty was arrested on charges of defamation under Article 434 of the Iraqi Penal Code, while according to the Press Law of KRI, journalists must be tried only under the law press law that does not include arrest.
Article 434 of the Iraqi Penal Code deals with defamation and carries a prison sentence of one month to one year with financial penalties.
"The trial of Ayoub under Article 434 of the Iraqi Penal Code is a mistake and another violation that occurs in the courts," Hassan added.
The arrest of Warty provoked anger of the public on social networks and media outlets as journalists demanded the case to be dealt with according to the press law not criminal code.
The reactions intensified following circulation of a photo for Warty handcuffed.
KirkukNow has come to know that the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) were unpleased with the detention of Warty, mounting efforts for his release on bail.
"From the first minute of my arrest, we have asked the lawyers to change the article of the case to the Press Law because I have been sued for journalism," Warty said in a statement posted on his Facebook account.
"I hope my case will not be misguided and will take its legal course," he added.
The Iraqi Kurdistan region has registered 138 cases of violation against 315 media outlets and reporters in 2021 including 47 cases of coverage ban against 104 media outlets and reporters.
The report has indicated 42 cases of arrest, 32 cases of physical attacks and abuse, eight reporters were beaten, four were verbally threatened.
Official figures by syndicate of journalists show the KRG has registered 31 satellite TV channels, 51 online media outlets, 138 radio stations, 259 papers, 695 magazines, 85 local TV stations.