[JURIST] Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] on Sunday urged [press release] Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) [official website, in Persian] to stop detaining journalists and political opponents who criticize government officials. HRW stated that the Kurdistan Security Agency and Kurdistan police had arrested journalists and publishers of articles without warrants and had detained them for up to a year without filing charges or holding trials. HRW also criticized a proposed criminal insult law that, if passed, would limit free speech and prevent investigative journalism by banning “insult” against religious and political leaders. The rights group stated the government should respect Article 2 of the Kurdistan Press Law [text, PDF], which protects journalists’ right to obtain and publish information without fear of arrest, and provides that a journalist may not be charged with defamation if the journalist publishes or writes about the work of a public official so long as what was published does not go beyond the affairs of the profession. HRW called on the KRG to end impunity for government officials who abuse their power in ordering the arrests of journalists and political activists.
The KRG has previously been criticized for its violation of free speech and free press. A report released [JURIST report] by Amnesty International (AI) in April 2011 stated that Iraqi authorities must end attacks on peaceful protesters and released a report [text, PDF] asserting that Iraqi and Kurdistan authorities had shot and killed demonstrators and detained and tortured political activists, targeting journalists covering the protests. In 2010, the HRW reported [JURIST report] that journalists in Iraqi Kurdistan who criticize the government faced increased intimidation, violence and lawsuits, and said that journalists in Iraq faced increasing defamation claims for articles criticizing politicians, political parties and government officials.