Journalists in the Kurdistan region have taken the brunt of turmoil and the wave of protests that have swept several cities in the region. Many colleagues are being prosecuted according to arrest warrants issued against them, and journalists are not allowed to approach any demonstrations or protests.
NRT media corporation, which includes NRT, NRT2 and NRT Arabic satellite channels, was closed down after a force of 100 heavily armed security commandos stormed its premises. A number of NRT workers and journalists was detained in the building, some of the broadcasting equipment were sabotaged and other were confiscated before they withdrew, announcing the suspension of broadcasting in three satellite channels.
Raparin local TV channel, and Mashkhalan and Al-Ittihad radio stations were affected in the riots that erupted in some of the demonstrations, as a group of people attacked and set fire to them in Rania district of Sulaymaniyah.
Dozens of journalists from several channels, specially NRT and KNN were also attacked . Many reporters and journalists, including foreigners were arrested, and some of them remain in prison without any legal grounds.
Press Freedom Advocacy Association in Iraq has observed a sharp and rapid decline in the freedom of the press and media in the region in the last two years, with the emergence of political and financial crises in the region, which allowed the deportation of six satellite channels crews from Erbil, throwing them on the borders of Sulaymaniyah, and banning some of TV channels from operating in the in the provincial capital.
Increasing violations of the Constitution regarding press and media, the disruption of the Constitution of the Kurdistan region have been noticed also, in addition to the silence of the Kurdistan Journalists Union, which did not take any action to the growing violations, at a time where the region witnesses new wave of prisoners of opinion a week after the outbreak of protests. The Association has recorded more than 45 violations including prevention of coverage, confiscation of equipment, abuse, detention, arresting, blocking and closing of facilities, and burning of stations.
Details of violations ordered according to the media institutions and chronology of events:-
Destruction of NRT Equipment
- On 18-12-2017, NRT reporter Awat Mahmoud and cameraman Jalal Rahman were directly targeted on Mulawi Street in Sulaymaniyah with tear gas canisters to prevent them from broadcasting live protests.
- On 18-12-2017, NRT reporter Karzan Tarek and the channel’s cameraman Jalal Rahman were attacked on Mulawi Street in Sulaymaniyah with tear gas also. On the next day (19th) the same crew was prevented from performing their duties and expelled them from the scene of the protests by the Security forces.
- NRT reporter Zalah Muhammad and cameraman Ribaz Ibrahim on 18-12-2017 were attacked by the PUK armed forces and a number of party supporters in the Sulaymaniyah district of Permkron. They were prevented from covering the protests demanding services and civil servants delayed salaries. Zala confirmed that she had been insulted by the attackers with coarse words.
- At 19:00 on 19-12-2017, 100 security elements attacked the NRT group of the Nalia Media Corporation in the city of Sulaymaniyah and forced the workers to stay in the building. They destroyed and broke up many of the corporation’s equipment including broadcasting equipment. The NRT, NRT2, and NRT Arabic broadcast was stopped. The Association confirm that NRT channels are being harassed by the authorities in the region following the rejection of the referendum held in the region on 25 September by its former owner and head of the Noi movement, Shaswar Abdulwahid, which prompted the authorities to send a group of Kurdistan Democratic Party members to attack the NRT office in Erbil and loot most of its contents, on 16th of October.
- On the next day of storming NRT channel group offices, the authorities in Sulaimaniya blocked NRT websites for a week.
- On 19-12-2017, NRT TV reporter Awat Mahmoud and cameraman Jalal Rahman were attacked in front of the Education Directorate building in Sulaymaniyah city by the security forces and were forced to leave the site, where a group of civil servants were protesting the non-payment of their salaries.
- On 19-12-2017, NRT reporters Hankao Mohammed and Kiwan Abu Bakr in Rania district of Rabirin in Sulaymaniyah province were attacked and beaten by unknown gunmen. The attackers attempted to break their camera and other equipment. The reporters were attacked also by a number of demonstrators where a number of party headquarters in Rania were being burnt. The reporters were prevented from covering and filming the scenes of burning headquarters. On the same day, the crew was attacked by the relatives of the victims of the demonstrations in the Rania district hospital and prevented from covering them.
- Also on 19-12-2017 security forces arrested NRT reporter Karzan Tariq and Jalal Rahman in front of Sulaymaniyah International Airport while covering the arrest of Shaswar Abdulwahid at the airport.
- On 19-12-2017, NRT reporter Zalah Muhammad and the channel’s cameraman Malband Salar were attacked by the Asayish forces while they were standing in front of the Grand Mosque in Sulaymaniyah. They were injured as a result of firing tear gas canisters at them.
- On the same day, a reporter for NRT in Kfri district of the Karamian in Sulaymaniyah received a direct and explicit threat of kidnapping or beatings by the PUK security forces while filming the demonstrations in the district via his mobile phone.
- On 19-12-2017, NRT crew, consisting of reporter Hersh Kadir and cameraman Mohammad Idris in Taq Taq subdistrict of Quesengjak district in Arbil, were threatened of beating and breaking their equipment if they did not leave the scene of demonstration.
- On the same day, reporter Hirsh Qadir was beaten and insulted by security force at 4 pm as he arrived at the grand market in Sulaymaniyah. He was detained for about half an hour before being released in exchange for signing a pledge to return to his residence in E
- On 19-12-2017 NRT in the district of Quesengq, reporter Khalid Mohammed was attacked by security forces east of Erbil. Live broadcast of the channel was stopped at 12 noon, while covering a demonstration demanding the payment of salaries of civil servants and improvement of services in the region. Attacking force confiscated all media equipment of colleague Khaled, which led to the interruption of live broadcast of the channel, and detained the reporter for several minutes, but the intervention of the demonstrators contributed to his release, and his confiscated equipment. On the same day, at 3 pm, Khaled Mohammed informed the Association, that an arrest warrant were issued for him, which led him to leave the district. He has not yet returned there and is currently living in difficult circumstances.
- On 20-12-2017 security forces stationed in a checkpoint at the entrance of the Rwanduz district of Erbil province, prevented NRT reporter Abdo Rostai from entering the city after the outbreak of demonstrations in the district. The reporter managed to enter the city from another route but was prevented from covering the demonstration by security forces at the scene of demonstrations.
- On 20-12-2017 in the province of Halabja, NRT reporter Warya Hama Karim and cameraman Ziar Kamili were attacked by two elements from the protection force of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. They broke the channel camera and subjected them to various insults. The reporter and cameraman confirmed that Halabja police spokesman told them that they were not responsible for the safety of staff at the NRT office in the province.
- On the same day, Kurdish security forces detained the director of NRT’s office in the United States, Sarkot Shamsuddin, and was released after two days in jail for unknown reasons.
- On 22-12-2017, NRT editor, Bahoz Nasruddin, was arrested by the security forces from his house and has not been released to the time of preparing this report.
- At 4:00 pm on 25-12-2017, NRT cameraman in the city of Sulaymaniyah, Afar Hamid, was arrested by the security forces. His colleagues attributed his arrest to a campaign of arrests of several journalists working at NRT. He was not released until the moment of writing this .
- On the same evening, journalist Khubat Nozad, director of the Kurd News channel, scheduled to open in early 2018, was arrested and was not released until the writing of the report.
- A force of al-Asayish arrested at 8:00 pm on 25-12-2017 NRT Digital Media director Suhaib Sheikh Ahmed Kaka, under an arrest warrant issued against him previously, as he had been hiding since the issuance of the arrest warrant , against the backdrop of the arrest of a number of activists in the demonstrations. He was released hours after his arrest after taking a set of pledges from him.
KNN News Room after being destroyed
- KNN reporter in the district of Quesnijq, Ari Saber, and the channel’s cameraman Dana Jalal, were subjected to two separate attacks by the security forces and the demonstrators and prevented from filming and covering the demonstrations that took place on the morning of 19-12-2017 in the district. An armed group set fire to the office of the channel in the district causing losses estimated at 7 million dinars. Ari Saber said that he can no longer work in the district, after the issuance of an arrest warrant against him, on charges of incitement to sabotage.
- Ari Luqman, KNN reporter in the district of Chamchamal, Sulaymaniyah province, and cameraman Heman Ahmed, were attacked, at 4 pm on 19-12-2017, by the security forces with tear gas in the market of the district. The next day, The same crew was attacked by some of the demonstrators, who threw stones and fired live ammunition at them. They sustained minor injuries as they were escaping the bullets, hiding behind walls. Ari told the Association that he had left his city because of pressure and pursuit by the security forces.
- On 19-12-2-17, Abu Bakr Hussein, KNN reporter in the district of Sayed Sadiq, Sulaymaniyah province, was beaten by security forces in the Martyr Briar Street in the district. He was subjected to various forms of insults. He was detained from 1:00 pm until 4 pm at the Directorate of Security in the district, and released after writing down all his personal information and address.
- On 19-12-2017 KNN reporter Juman Othman and cameraman Issa San Ahmed were subjected to humiliation and insult by the security forces in Halabja. Their equipment was confiscated the next day and they were detained for about one hour. In a separate attack during the demonstrations, the Asayish forces beat them with batons. The crew was also subjected to a third attack by al-Asayish during the live broadcast which was cut off after seizing the equipment. Juman Othman told the Association that they can not even meet their everyday needs as a result of their stay at homes for fear of arrest, stressing that there is a great restriction imposed by the authorities of the region against journalists.
- On 20-12-2017 KNN reporter and cameraman Ali Fuad in Kfri district of the Karamian in Sulaymaniyah province was subjected to two separate attacks by the security forces and demonstrators and prevented from filming and covering the demonstrations taking place in the morning.
- On the same day, Saber Abdullah, KNN reporter in the district of Qal’at Daza of Rabirin in Sulaymaniyah province and cameraman Oat Omar were attacked and their equipment and camera were destroyed by the Kurdish security forces, threatening them with arrest in case they cover the demonstrations. Ring Oussman said in a statement to the Association he and all of the employees at the KNN office, Saber Abdullah, Awat Omar, Saman Omar and Majid Khader, were subjected to violations of various kinds, ranging from the prevention of coverage, insult , attack , and prosecution, adding they for fear of burning the office, they had to move the equipment so no interruption in the work can occur.
- On 20-12-2017, KNN reporter in the district of Penjwain of Sulaymaniyah province Saman Hussein and the channel’s cameraman Darko Jalal were threatened by the security forces not to cover the demonstrations and protests.
- A group of demonstrators burned the local Raparin channel in the district of Rania on 19-12-2017, and broke and looted some of the devices.
- On the same day, a group of people burned the “Mashkhalan” and “Al Ittihad” radio stations in Rania district, and they broke down and destroyed their contents.
- On the same day, the Live broadcasting equipment of PAYAM reporter in Sulaymaniyah Jalal Mohammed and channel’s cameraman Nozad Ahmed was confiscated by security forces while covering the demonstrations that took place in the city on 19-12-2017. Asayish forces confiscated the cables of the live broadcast and camea and threatened them with detention and arrest.
- On December 18, 2017, reporter of Khandan website, Dana Sufi Ibrahim, in Rania district was attacked and beaten by the security forces during the demonstrations. “I tried to talk to the director of the Raparain security department about the demonstrations, but I was surprised that he and four of his armed bodyguards assaulted me, beat me up and stole my personal phone,” Dana Sufi told the Association. He added that he was taken to the hospital after suffering severe pain in the head and neck areas
- On 19-12-2017, reporter of SPEDA satellite channel in the district of Quesengj, Madh Jamal Taha and the cameraman of the channel, Ardalan Rasool Mahmoud, were attacked by demonstrators and prevented from covering the protests.
- Reporter of Kirkuk TV channel, Karwan Nazim Khurshid, in the district of Koesengjak on 19/12-2017 was prevented from covering the demonstrations that started in the district, especially by the angry demonstrators and also by the security forces. Karwan confirmed that he was unable to work because of the targeting of journalists in the street by the security forces and protesters.
- Reporter of Payam satellite channel in Rania district, Aras Rasul was prevented from covering the demonstrations on 22-12-2017 by the security forces in the city center. He was warned by the security forces from covering the demonstrations and threatened to be arrested next time. The following day, security forces raided the house of Aras who had left the city and was still hiding with cameraman Abdel Salam Hassan.
Press Freedom Advocacy Association in Iraq