The Erbil Midemanour Court has sentenced journalist Ayoub Warty to a fine of $1 million Iraqi Dinar IQD (USD635) for using a video and publishing it in a report on the "sexual assault" of two sisters by a doctor, team of defense lawyers said on Monday March 6th.
The report was published on April 9, 2022 by Kurdish News Network KNN TV channel, when Ayoub Warty was a reporter for the channel in Erbil.
The report, entitled "The Story of the Two Sisters Victims of a Plastic Surgeon," says that the doctor "sexually assaulted two sisters after they had Rhinoplasty."
In part of the video report, a doctor's clinic appears and the same doctor filed a complaint against Warty for using the video of his clinic, saying, "The report has nothing to do with our clinic and our reputation has been defamed.”
The trial was attended by a representative of United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq UNAMI and the head of the Reporters' Organization for Rights and Development RORD, a local non-governmental organization NGO.
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 Iraqi Kurdistan Region IKR.
“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.
The Metro Center for the Protection of Journalists' Rights has registered 431 violations against 301 journalists and media institutions last year while in 2021, there were 353 cases of violations against 260 journalists and media institutions.
On July 18, 2022, Warty was released on bail of two million IQD (USD1,350) after protesting against his arrest for 10 hours at Bakhtiari Polcie station in Erbil based on complaint filed by the plastic surgeon.
"We will appeal this decision next week because we believe it is illegal," said Bashdar Hassan, a member of Warty's lawyers' team, without specifying what law the decision was issued.
Ayoub Warty was arrested on charges of defamation under Article 434 of the Iraqi Penal Code, while according to the Iraqi Kurdistan Press Law, journalists must be tried only under the law (Press Law) that does not refer to arrest and or detention.
Article 434 of the Iraqi Penal Code deals with defamation and carries a prison sentence of one month to up one year with financial penalties.
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.