CPJ: Kurdish authorities should stop harassing media outlets

The Committee to Protect Journalists condemned the closure of an independent television broadcaster by the Kurdish authorities in northern Iraq, and attacks on journalists covering anti-austerity protests held in the same region.

"Kurdish authorities in northern Iraq should stop harassing media outlets and journalists for reporting on the recent wave of regional protests," said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Coordinator Sherif Mansour from Washington, D.C. "We call on the Kurdish government to live up to its professed commitment to press freedom and allow journalists to do their job without fear of reprisal."

CPJ recalled that Kurdish security forces, known as Asayish, on Wednesday at approximately 7 p.m. entered the headquarters of Nalia Radio and Television (NRT) in the northwestern Iraqi city of Sulaimaniyah without showing a warrant. NRT deputy newsroom manager Soran Rashid told CPJ that the security forces then vandalized the office and destroyed broadcasting equipment.

The security forces held the NRT staff in the building for an hour, suspended the broadcast of the NRT and its subsidiaries, and closed down the office for a week without explanation, Rashid said, adding that Asayish forces were stationed outside the NRT building.

CPJ remarked that the raid and shutdown occurred after NRT broadcasted a livestream of and reported on ongoing regional protests against corruption, unpaid public sector salaries, and austerity policies. Since the demonstrations broke out on December 18, at least five people have been killed and dozens injured.

In a separate incident, Asayish forces yesterday assaulted at least four journalists from the TV channel KNN (Kurdish News Network) while they were covering protests in the western Kurdish cities of Chamchamal and Qaladze, according to KNN and Ragaz Kamal, co-founder of the local human rights organization 17Shubat for human rights.

Asayish forces broke the hand of reporter Ari Luqman and the camera of Hemn Ahmad in Chamchamal. Forces affiliated with the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) assaulted KNN reporter Sabir Abdullah and broke photographer Awat Omar's camera, said Kamal and KNN.