Security forces ban journalists from covering rally in front of Iran Consulate in Erbil

Erbil, August 2021: A number of journalists waiting for a press conference at the Ministry of Health. Exclusively for KirkukNow

By Farman Sadiq in Erbil

Two journalists were subjected to violations, including prevention of coverage, confiscation of journalistic materials and threats, while covering a protest by Kurdish activists in front of the consulate of Iran in Erbil.

Nabaz Rashad of Westgate News and Rebin Sardar of Diplomatic Magazine were the two journalists were attacked by the security forces at 10 am on September 24th when tensions broke out between protesters and security forces in front of the Iranian consulate.

"First, the demonstrators went in front of the United Nations’ UN headquarters, then some of them marched towards the consulate and blocked the main street, and we were covering the march," Sardar told KirkukNow.

“The demonstrators tried to enter the consulate, but the security forces prevented them, leading to tension between the demonstrators and the security forces... When the tension escalated, the security forces attacked all though we said we were journalists.”

The security forces attacked the demonstrators and journalists

The activists condemned the death of a Kurdish girl in Tehran, who died after being arrested by the Iranian Manner police and kept in a police station. This sparked protests in most Iranian cities, ongoing up today.

The local and international organizations, human rights advocates members of the Iraqi and Kurdistan parliaments MPs expressed their grave concern that freedom of press and expression is increasingly under threat all over Iraq including the Kurdistan Region of Iraq KRI.

The Press Freedom Advocacy Association in Iraq PFAA monitored 280 cases of violations against journalists from May 3, 2021 to May 2, 2022 per which Baghdad and Erbil ranked first with 56 violations, followed by Kirkuk province with 37 cases.

"When the demonstrators arrived in front of the Iranian consulate, I started covering the protest, but the forces there prevented us from covering it," Westgate News reporter Nabaz Rashad said.

The force consisted of civilian police and security forces.

According to a video posted on the Westgate News website, a man is yelling at the Westgate News reporter asking him to give him the mobile phone via which he was covering the protests live.

“They also took my personal cell phone... They also confiscated our media belongings. They told us to go and get them from the security forces. I went to the security forces after 1 pm."

They took my personal cell phone in addition to the cell phone I was using to broadcast the incident live

This is the second case of violations by Erbil security forces against journalists since September 19th when several shops in the Downtown market in Erbil were burned down, and a number of journalists arrived at the scene to cover the incident.

According to a video posted on social networks, several policemen prevent journalists from covering the fire.

A report by Iraqi Kurdistan Union of Journalists has registered 62 cases of violations against journalists in the first six months of 2022, most of which were discrimination, allowing easy access to political media institutions and crackdown against independent media outlets.

According to the fourth paragraph of Article 7 of the Kurdistan Journalism Law, “Journalists have the right to attend public conferences and activities” and the second paragraph of Article 2 states that “Journalists may obtain any information from different sources in accordance with law.”

Last week, a source in charge of the Erbil General Directorate of Police said that if a journalist faces violation by security forces, he can file a complaint and the case will go to the judge, then the court will decide on it.

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