Authorities in Kurdistan region of Iraq must stop assaults on press freedom: Amnesty International News
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Authorities in Kurdistan region of Iraq must stop assaults on press freedom: Amnesty International

Amnesty International called on Thursday for authorities in the Kurdistan region of Iraq (KR-I) to stop their assault on freedom of expression and press freedom. The call came a day before of World Press Freedom Day and emphasized the need for authorities to end the arbitrary detention, physical abuse, and unjust trials of journalists.

In its statement, Amnesty International referenced data from the Metro Center, who works to protect journalists’ rights in the KR-I, which shows that there were 37 arrests and 27 incidents of journalists being attacked or threatened in 2023. Since the beginning of the year, at least 10 journalists have been detained in the region.

Trials of journalists in the region have been described as “grossly unfair,” often conducted in secret on baseless charges, with no access to adequate legal representation. There are multiple examples of forcible disappearances and confessions extracted under duress. While not all have been arrested, the so-called “chilling climate” means that journalists are frequently subject to abuse and threats. The Metro Center reported on the alleged assault by security forces on Diplomatic reporter, Zhilya Ali, and her husband in January.

The statement by Amnesty International came ahead of a report by Reporters Without Borders, issued on Friday, which ranked Iraq as 169 out of 180 countries, moving it down two levels from the previous year. The World Press Freedom Indicator contextualizes the ranking in the background of extreme political polarization, an unequal distribution of funding for media outlets and the ubiquity of defamation lawsuits, and said that the state is “failing in its duty to protect” journalists.

Amnesty International’s Iraq Campaigner, Bissan Fakih, said:

No one should face harassment and intimidation simply for carrying out their journalistic work. The KRG should immediately and unconditionally release all those detained solely for their journalistic work. Authorities should uphold human rights and press freedom and take credible steps to create a conducive environment where journalists can carry out their work safely and people are allowed to express critical opinions freely.