Journalists humiliated during the election process
No one has been held accountable for violations against journalists, say press-freedom NGOs.
Recently, Metro Center, a press freedom organization, announced that it has recorded scores of violations against journalists during the 2013 elections for the Kurdistan legislature, asking the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the relevant parties to take action to put an end to the violations.
The Center has already announced that during the parliamentary election campaigns, between August 28 and September 19, at least 40 journalists from different media outlets were harassed by supporters of the political parties and by the security forces.
The Center’s new statement mentions that 21 journalists were harassed on both special and general voting days.
They journalists contacted the Center’s violence registration department and filed lawsuits against the violators.
“At least 61 journalists across the Kurdistan Region have been harassed or intimidated during the 2013 Kurdistan legislative election process,” the statement reads.
The Law on Journalism in force in the Kurdistan Region is clear on this matter: “Everyone who harasses or abuses any journalist during his/her duty will be punished with the same law that punished the harassment of a state employee during the execution of his/ her duty.”
Reports show that security forces attacked journalists in their uniforms, while there are confirmed reports that some security members changed into plain clothes before attacking.
According to the Center, no one has yet been questioned about the recorded harassment cases.
“Some of the recorded violations are completely at odds with articles in the Kurdistan Journalism Law, and the rest can be regarded as crimes,” the statement reads.
The Center condemned the violations against journalists in the strongest terms, and said that: ”The intimidation of journalists, under any sort of pretext, is unacceptable.”
It argued that the KRG and all the relevant parties should prioritize the eradication of violence against journalists, and above all the involvement of the security forces, who are supposed to protect stability, in the attacks.
However, the journalists making these claims criticize the government, saying it has not done enough to raise the awareness level of the security forces to avoid a repetition of such actions.
Press freedom organizations have also urged a rapid reduction in the harassment of journalists.
“The KRG Ministry of the Interior has shown that it has no intention of punishing the members of its security forces, and this is a very dangerous sign for journalists in the future,” Niaz Abdullah, the director of the Metro Center in Erbil, told the Kurdish Globe in an earlier interview.
Jalal Majeed Farhad, a reporter for the Rudaw Media Network, was one of the journalists who was intimidated by the security forces on the day of the special vote. “A member of the security forces attacked me and my technicians while we were busy setting up to a live broadcast. They seized our cameras and sound equipment under the pretext that we used their photographs in a previous program without letting them know.”
Metro recorded 359 violations against journalists in 2011. In the first quarter of 2012 along, some 17 cases were recorded.
According to experts, the intimidation of journalists poses a major threat to the democratic process in the Kurdistan Region.
Encounters between security forces and a journalist, Rahman Gharib, during a demonstration in Sulaimaniyah.