As World Press Freedom Day has passed this Thursday on May 3rd, a Kurdish based advocacy organization known as Metro Center is asking the authorities and courts of Kurdistan to, “review the cases of assassinated journalists.” In a public statement they claimed, “Metro Center calls on the Kurdistan Regional Government to work to pave the way to a suitable environment for journalism freedom so that media can play its role in the process of social change.” The group expressed the desire for “justice and independency of courts” in regards to journalists killed and punishment for the guilty parties.
Multiple Kurdish journalists have been killed on account of their profession in recent years. Kawa Garmeyani, Sardasht Osman, Soran Mama Hama, and Wedat Hussein, to name a few high-profile cases, were all killed for their reporting. Osman was found in Mosul, dead, 2 days after being abducted from Erbil at the College of Arts in May of 2010. Garmeyani was killed outside his house in 2013 by unknown gunmen. Hussein was kidnapped and killed near Duhok in August of 2016 — he had been tortured and according to his family he had written for a PKK affiliated website. Hama was killed in Kirkuk when two men approached him on a street corner in 2008. Every one of them had previously published critical allegations of corruption in an official political level regarding Kurdistan authorities.
Metro Center also released an annual report citing a total of 139 “violations” against journalists in Iraqi-Kurdistan, and these “violations” happened against 74 journalists in just 2018 alone. They categorized these actions as:
- Arresting without warrant: 16 cases
- Barring coverage: 64 cases
- Beating and harming: 14 cases
- Threats made: 6 cases
- Closure of TV channel: 1 case
- Seizure and damage of equipment: 24 cases
Metro Center openly condemned Kurdish authorities for the way they have treated protests in Kurdistan; during these protests, several journalists have been assaulted and detained by security forces. Following the March protests in Erbil, Metro Center reported that,
The security forces have been stationed in large numbers in areas where protests have occurred, especially the center of the cities of Erbil and Duhok, they hurt protesters and detain, them, and they have not abstained from journalists either. Those forces dealt with journalists in line with the name ‘rioters,’ but Metro announces that journalistic freedom is one of the cornerstones of a democratic system, [it is] not ‘rioting,’”
Metro Center has counseled Kurdish media outlets to “play the real role of an impartial observer” when reporting in the region. They have urged Kurdish citizens and news sources alike to not negligently advocate “fake videos and edited photos.” Their website says, “The main objective of Metro Center is to create an apt environment for journalistic work in Kurdistan.”
Featured image courtesy of the author.