Dienstag, 09.08.2022 / 23:52 Uhr

Nach Protesten in Irakisch-Kurdistan: Behörden gehen gegen Journalisten und Demonstranten vor

Thomas von der Osten-Sacken

In Suleymaniah kam es jüngst bei Protesten zu Massenverhaftungen und Repressionen. Darauf reagierte das Committee to Protect Journalists mit scharfer Kritik:


Iraqi Kurdistan authorities should immediately cease detaining and harassing journalists and media workers and allow them to report on political unrest freely and safely, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Tuesday.

On August 5 and August 6, Asayish security forces in several locations in Iraqi Kurdistan interfered with the work of at least 20 journalists and media workers with detentions, harassment, raids, and the closure of at least one media outlet, according to multiple news reports, local press freedom groups Kurdistan Journalists’ Syndicate, the Metro Center for Journalists Rights and Advocacy, and the Press Freedom Advocacy Association in Iraq, and several journalists affected who spoke to CPJ. 

All of the journalists were covering or preparing to cover demonstrations on August 6 by the opposition party New Generation Movement over taxes, fuel prices, and employment opportunities, according to those sources. 

“Authorities in Iraqi Kurdistan have reached a new low with their detention and harassment of reporters and media workers seeking to cover civil unrest,” said CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa program coordinator Sherif Mansour, in Washington, D.C. “Iraqi Kurdistan was once a haven for the free press in the Middle East but now the region is a prime perpetrator of press freedom violations.” 

On Friday, August 5, the day before the demonstrations, security forces detained Taif Goran and Biryar Nerwayi, reporters at privately owned television broadcaster NRT, in front of the channel’s office in the city of Duhok in western Iraqi Kurdistan, according to the broadcaster’s report, and Goran, who spoke to CPJ on the phone. Goran told CPJ that “the security forces didn’t tell us any legal reason behind our arrest” and that the two were released without charge on bail after 27 hours in custody. Goran said that the forces also confiscated equipment from the office including five cameras, two livestream boxes, five microphones, and two tripods, which were all returned when the journalists were released.

NRT is owned by the Kurdish businessman Shaswar Abdulwahid, the leader of the New Generation Movement, who called for the protests.

On Saturday August 6, Asayish forces raided the privately owned website and TV outlet Rast Media office in the city of Duhok and shut it down without giving any reasons, according to the outlet’s Facebook post and Omed Baroshky, director of Rast News, who spoke to CPJ on the phone. Baroshky told CPJ that “we have completed all the legal procedures to work freely as a media outlet, but they asked us to shut it down and go home anyway.” As of August 9, the office has remained closed. 

On the same day at 10:00 a.m. in Erbil, the regional capital, five plainclothes security officers raided the home of Ayub Ali Warty, a reporter at broadcaster Kurdish News Network, which is affiliated with the opposition Gorran party, and detained the journalist, according to Warty, who spoke to CPJ over the phone and posted about the incident on Facebook. The officers escorted him to Asayish headquarters for investigation before releasing him at midnight, he said. Warty said he was verbally abused, but did not provide details of the insults. 

“During the investigation, I was told that if I want to live as a critical journalist, Erbil is not the right place,” he said. He said that he was forced to sign a blank paper without knowing the reason, and was told the paper “could put me in jail for 300 years.” When he was released without charge, Warty said the officers told him he was arrested “by mistake.” 

Also on Saturday in Erbil, NRT reporters Rizgar Kochar, Omed Chomani, and Hersh Qadir were detained by officers in plain clothes, according to two videos posted on Facebook by the broadcaster and Qadir, who told CPJ via phone that the officers also raided his home. Qadir said they were arrested in front of their office, and when they asked about the officers’ identity “they stressed that they are Asayish forces and we have to go with them.” He said the officers turned the journalists over to armed security forces who placed them in hoods and took them to the Asayish headquarters in Erbil. He said he believes that “the only reason was to prevent us from covering the demonstrations.” Qadir said the three were released without charge after six hours and after they were forced to sign documents without being allowed to read them. 

Also on Saturday, NRT reporters Diyar Mohammed and Soran Mohammed and NRT cameraman Mahmoud Razgar were arrested by security forces while covering a protest in the town of Chamchamal, in Sulaymaniyah governorate in eastern Iraqi Kurdistan, according to a Facebook post by the broadcaster and Soran Mohammed, who spoke to CPJ on the phone. Soran Mohammed told CPJ that security forces blocked the crew’s camera, ordered the journalists to go with them to their headquarters in the city, and seized their equipment including two cameras, one tripod, and two microphones. The officers told the journalists that they would remain in custody until the demonstrations were dispersed, he said. The three were released without charge three hours later, but the officers kept their equipment until Sunday, he said.