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Security forces deliberately fire on TV cameraman in the Iraqi Kurdistan

Security forces, police officers and members of the Asayesh intelligence service harassed a group of journalists on August 11 in Chamchamal, a town located between Sulaymaniyah and Kirkuk, in Iraqi Kurdistan, and even fired at one of them, according to Paris-based press freedom group Reporters sans Frontières (RSF). The journalists were covering a protest against a water shortage in the town.

The journalists involved in the incident were cameraman Swara Bilal of Speda TV (a station that belongs to the opposition Kurdish Islamic Union), cameraman Ari Luqman of KNN (a station affiliated to the opposition movement Goran) and Aso Shwani, a reporter for the independent newspaper Hawlati.

Bilal told RSF, “The inhabitants of Shorsh, a suburb of Chamchamal, told us they had not had any water for 10 days and were going to demonstrate to press the authorities to find a solution. We went there and began filming but the security forces quickly stopped us. When they saw I had filmed the demonstration, they fired on the demonstrators and then asked me to hand over the cassette. I refused and ran for fear that they would grab the cassette. That is when they fired on me. More than 10 shots. Fortunately I was not hit.”

Luqman said, “When the representatives of the local authorities arrived, they ordered the security forces to prevent the journalists from filming the demonstration (...) I saw the security forces and the police chase after the Speda cameraman and fire on him. The order was clear: if you cannot stop him, kill him. I was meanwhile getting ready to film, but the mayor of Chamchamal and the Asayesh agents raised their guns in order to scare me.”

Shwani also spoke to RSF, confirming the violence with which the security forces behaved towards the Speda and KNN cameramen.

“What happened in Chamchamal is absolutely outrageous,” RSF said. “Journalists are often the targets of verbal threats or physical violence from the security forces but this time the security forces deliberately fired on a journalist in the middle of a city street.” It said, “We urge the Kurdistan authorities to investigate this serious incident and punish those responsible. The security forces are supposed to ensure respect for public order, not to behave like militias in the service of private interests.”

Commenting on the incident, Speda Director-General Bukhari Jamil said: “This is not the first time our crews have been attacked in the field. But this time it was different. Until now, no one had ever dared to deliberate fire on TV crews as they did in Chamchamal. We are very disturbed by what has just happened. But we will continue to do our work, whatever the price.”

Speda and KNN have filed a complaint against the police and security forces.

Date posted: August 16, 2010 Last modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 110