More than 350 violations against journalists in Kurdistan Region last year: Metro Center
More than 350 violations were committed against journalists and media outlets in the Kurdistan Region during 2021, a local media watchdog announced on Sunday (January 16).
According to the Metro Center for Journalists’ Rights and Advocacy, 353 violations were committed against 260 journalists and media outlets last year, a slight dip from 2020.
In its eleventh annual report, the group said that there were 189 incidents of obstruction and discrimination, 81 cases of beatings and insults, 25 arrests without a court order, and 25 incidents where journalistic equipment was seized.
There were thirteen threats against journalists, seven cases where their property was destroyed, four cases where journalists were prosecuted outside the Press Law, two incidents where media offices were attacked, and six cases where journalists were forced to sign pledges not to cover certain topics.
One journalist was shot last year.
“In 2021, statistically press freedom violations were down eight percent compared to 2020, but that doesn't mean the environment is without problems,” said Diyaree Mohammed, director of the Metro Center.
In 2020, the watchdog reported that there were 385 violations against 291 journalists.
This past year’s numbers are “a disgrace and not something to be celebrated,” Mohammed said.
In a troubling development, the watchdog found that the types of violations committed against journalists have changed, noting that many are now charged under harsh statutes in the Iraqi Penal Code in an attempt to discourage them from exercising their freedom of expression.
The Metro Center said that women journalists in particular endure hostile working conditions in the Kurdistan Region, according to a survey it conducted of 49 women working in media.
"They are harassed daily by male colleagues, ordinary citizens, officials, and lawyers," the watchdog said, characterizing violations against women journalists as “routine.”
It said that women journalists were frequently denigrated while on the job, which undermined their ability to work with the public and discouraged them from pursuing careers in media.
The Metro Center also took the opportunity to highlight statistics from the last ten years, finding that there were 2,632 violations recorded against 2,165 journalists and media outlets in the Kurdistan Region over the past decade.
Three journalists were murdered for their work, including Kawa Garmiani, Wadat Hussein, and Arkan Sharif, whose deaths “have either not been seriously investigated or the results of the investigations were not convincing to the public and the families of the victims.”
Seven other journalists were killed while covering the war against Islamic State (ISIS).