Pressures and grave violations against media professionals

The authorities in Kurdistan Regional Government -Iraq, continue to arrest activists and media professionals without allowing their lawyers to meet with them, while the representative of the Metro Center for Defending the Rights of Journalists in Duhok revealed that Başûr Kurdistan suffers from a greatly reduced level of freedoms, as a post on social media leads its publisher to imprisonment.

Media professionals who follow files of corruption and popular protests in Kurdistan are facing repression and arbitrary campaigns by the security authorities of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), as hundreds of activists and journalists have been arrested.

Since 2015, employees and teachers have been calling for paying their salaries cut by the government via organizing demonstrations and protests in front of the government departments in South Kurdistan.

The number of protests increased in various cities and regions of South Kurdistan during this year after some media outlets exposed the phenomenon of corruption increased in government departments and the agreement to export oil to the Turkish occupation.

Journalist Ahmed Zakhoyi went on a hunger strike after he and more than 40 journalists and activists were arrested for covering the popular protests in Zakho.

About this, the representative of the Metro Center for Defending the Rights of Journalists in Duhok, Marwan Yehya, spoke to Hawar news agency saying: “There is a division in Başûr (South) Kurdistan. The first part is power and dictatorship, and the second part is those who oppose and protest against the policies of this authority and government. Activists and media professionals play an important role in exposing the authority’s policies and showing the voice of the people demanding their rights and freedom.”

Marwan added: “The media which aims to show the voice of the people faces heavy pressures and violations at the hands of the authority.”

He explained that the free media seeks to expose the files of corruption spread in government departments and institutions, yet it is subjected to a campaign of silence and harassment through arrest and torture in prisons.

Kurdistan regional government throws journalists into prisons

Regarding the level of freedoms in South Kurdistan, the journalist Marwan Yehya said: “Başûr (South) Kurdistan suffers from the low level of freedoms, especially the lack of freedom of media in the country, so it may reach that an activist or a civilian is arrested for publishing a post on social media.”

He pointed out that “the arrests have increased in recent times, especially after the people’s protest against the entry of Turkish truck drivers into the lands of Başûr from Ibrahim Khalil crossing in Duhok city, and the follow-up of media professionals to those protests on August 19, thus the government of Başûr is seeking in every way to obscure the facts by imprisoning journalists.”

Yehya revealed that the security authorities do not allow the detained media professionals’ lawyers to meet them or even know the reasons for the arrest, while there are still a large number of journalists in detention.

At the end of his speech, the journalist and representative of the Center for Defending the Rights of Journalists in Duhok city, Marwan Yehya, called on the Parliament of Başûr Kurdistan and its president to work for the release of all detainees, investigate their files, and expedite discussion of a mechanism and the level of media freedom in Başûr