KDP shuts down the NRT offices in Duhok and Hewler

In the hours following a protest in Zakho, the security forces in Hewler and Duhok governorates moved to restrict the ability of NRT journalists to report on a variety of developments in those two governorates, which are controlled by the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP).

Late on Wednesday, local truck drivers gathered for a demonstration at the Ibrahim Khalil border crossing, angry that the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) had decided to allow Turkish trucks to enter the region.

The teamsters were angry that government had reversed a practice where Turkish trucks dropped off their cargo at the border to be picked up by local truckers. The protesters who said that the move threatened their livelihoods were forcefully dispersed by the police and Asayish (local security).

NRT reporter Ahmad Zakhoy was prevented by the security forces from accessing the main protest area to report on developments.

Hours later, the security forces raided NRT’s Duhok office. As of early afternoon on Thursday, the security forces were still present at the office.

At 4:00 a.m., Zakhoy was arrested in Zakho and he remains in custody, NRT reported.

Shortly before midday, Asayish affiliated with the KDP detained NRT reporter Nihad Oramari in Duhok governorate’s Deraluk sub-district.

NRT reporter in Duhok Bewar Hilmi said that Oramari, who is based in Amedi, had been on assignment, reporting a suspected Turkish drone crash that happened near Shif Chinarakey village in the sub-district before dawn on Thursday. The Asayish stopped Oramari and seized his camera and other equipment, which had not been returned as of early afternoon. He was held for approximately two hours.

The Turkish military is currently conducting intense air and ground operations in the Kurdistan Region. On Wednesday, a civilian was killed in a Turkish airstrike in the Kani Masi sub-district. He was the seventh civilian killed in the renewed Turkish operation since June 15 and the sixth in Duhok governorate.

Later in the day, NRT reporter Shakiran Zebari was arrested by the local Asayish forces at a checkpoint in Akre district and taken to a nearby Asayish station.

The security forces also shut down the local NRT office in Hewler (Erbil) on Thursday, escorting journalists off the premises and chaining the doors shut.

NRT reporter Hersh Qadir said that police did not give any legal justification for the closure, other than that they had orders. He added that the police informed the staff in Hewler that they are not allowed to work and that, if they attempt to continue reporting, their equipment will be seized.

The raid and the arrests are far from the first incidents where the local security forces have attempted to interfere with the work of NRT journalists in Duhok.

In January 2019, the security forces illegally and without authorization from the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) Ministry of Culture and Youth closed down the Duhok office for a month following NRT’s extensive coverage of a protest in Shiladze against Turkish airstrikes that had killed several civilians in the area.

Only last week, on August 12, the security forces prevented NRT reporters working in the office from leaving the premises for several hours, which meant that they had to cover the protests that were occurring in the governorate that day remotely.

“Though harassment and prevention of local reporters by the security forces in Duhok is routine, there is worry that the situation could become worse under recently installed Governor Ali Tatar, an ally of KRG Prime Minister Masrour Barzani,” NRT said.

Within days of taking office in June, he ordered an NRT reporting team be prevented from traveling to Shiladze to cover a protest, saying that they needed his permission to do so, according to the members of the security forces who stopped the team at a checkpoint in Deraluk.