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International community urged asked to press Kurdistan to end abuses against journalists

Paris-based press freedom group Reporters sans Frontières (RSF) has expressed shock at the spate of arbitrary arrests in Iraqi Kurdistan as it prepares to celebrate the 113th anniversary of the creation of the first Kurdish news media on Friday.

Media freedom and security, which seemed better in Kurdistan than in neighbouring regions during the darkest years of the war in Iraq, have worsened a great deal in the past two months. We urge the international community to press the Kurdistan Regional Government to stop violating the rights of demonstrators and journalists, RSF said.

In one of the most disturbing latest developments, the Sulaymaniyah headquarters of Payam TV, a satellite television station operated by the Kurdistan Islamic Group, has been surrounded since April 19 by the security forces of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), one of the two main parties that form the government in Kurdistan.

The head of Payam TV, Farouq Ali, said at a news conference that gunmen had established a security cordon at a distance of 300 metres from the building that houses the station. “A group of citizens and civil society activists have decided to gather around the station’s offices to form a sort of human shield to prevent the situation degenerating,” he said.

He added that he feared something similar to the arson attack that was carried out last February on the headquarters of Naliya Radio and Television (NRT) in Sulaymaniyah to prevent it from continuing to cover demonstrations in the city (http://en.rsf.org/irak-criminal-raid-prevents-kurdistan-s-22-02-2011,395...).

Many journalists have meanwhile been attacked and in some cases briefly detained in the past few days.

Jabar Aziz, the newspaper Hawlati’s correspondent in Raniya, told RSF yesterday: “I was about to take a photo of the gunmen who were everywhere in the market in Raniya when they opened fire in my direction. I was lucky and managed to escape.” Kaywan Hawrami, a reporter for the Lvinpress.com news website, was briefly detained by security forces in the Hallabja district.

Rebin Hardi, an influential columnist and intellectual, was briefly detained in Sulaymaniyah on April 19 while on his way to a sit-in outside the city’s law-courts to protest against the use of violence by the security forces against demonstrators. Forced to get into a bus, he was driven to an unidentified location and hit very hard in the face, hands and legs.

Hiwa Jamal and Sirwan Rashid, two members of the staff of the weekly Rojnama, were arrested on April 19 and were held overnight in a military prison. Bestun Muhammad of Sbeiy.com, Hunar Jamal of KNN, Mohammad Satar of Lvinpress.com, Soran Ahmed of Hawlati and Kawa Garmiyani of Awene were all arrested and beaten. Garmiyani’s leg was broken.

Sardasht Othman of Awene was also arrested and an attempt was made to arrest freelance journalist Soran Omer, but he was not at home.

Date posted: April 21, 2011 Last modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 41