South Kurdistan journalists: Freedom of expression hit hard

Ignacio Miguel Delgado Culebras the Committee to Protect Journalist (CPJ) Middle East correspondent tells in a detailed article about the plight of colleagues in southern Kurdistan, northern Iraq.

Culebras recalls that when he met freelance journalist Guhdar Zebari in Erbil he told him: “Ever since I started working as a journalist nine years ago, I have been under constant pressure from my family, my tribe, and my community to give up journalism. Friends have been asked by security forces to sever ties with me.”

The CPJ met with five journalists in Erbil and Sulaymaniyah. All of them, writes Culebras, spoke of how disputes between Iraqi Kurdistan’s two main political parties—the ruling Kurdistan Democratic Party (PDK), which governs the Erbil and Duhok regions, and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), which governs the Sulaymaniyah region—have created issues from authorities and interviewees. Impunity in cases of violence against the press and a lack of a truly independent judiciary and press regulation body have left journalists feeling vulnerable and at heightened risk of attack.

Asos Hardi, founder of the independent Kurdish newspapers Hawlati and Awene, said that the partisan divide has increased journalists’ vulnerability to harassment and attacks.

Since the independence referendum, CPJ has documented detentions, harassment, assaults and attacks.

Neither the Kurdish Justice Ministry nor the Kurdistan Regional Government’s media office responded to CPJ’s email requesting comment, sent on September 5.

The Journalists’ Syndicate of Kurdistan did not respond to CPJ’s emailed request for comment, sent on August 8.

The original article by Culebra can be read here