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Health official sues 70 over critical Facebook posts, comments: watchdog

  2021-07-02  | 
 Zhyan News Network
The logo of Metro Center for Journalists' Rights and Advocacy- Graphic by Zhyan News Network
 Zhyan News Network

SULAIMANI – A senior health official in Darbandikhan district has filed over 70 lawsuits against journalists, activists and critics following a barrage of Facebook posts and comments critical of shortcomings in the district’s health sector, a watchdog said on Thursday (June 1).

On June 19, a number of activists and journalists went to the Darbandikhan mayoral district building, located 66 kilometers southeast of Sulaimani, to present their demands for the health sector in the city, Metro Center for Journalists' Rights and Advocacy reported.

Farman Abdulrahman Haji, one of the gathering’s organizers, told Metro center that he was warned on June 28 that he should attend an interrogation with the police as a defender in accordance with Article 2 of Communication Devices Misuse Law.

Article 2 of Communication Devices Misuse Law (issued in 2008), says that anyone is punishable to sentence terms from six months to five years and a fine starting from one to five million Iraqi dinars.

“We went to express our protest against the relocation of an expert doctor in our city to Said Sadiq,” Haji told Metro, “This is a legitimate demand because we have one expert in that field, thus this was followed a wave of criticisms on the social media and people have rights to show their criticisms and demand without libel.”

Plaintiff, head of Darbandikhan Health Directorate, Sazan Ibrahim told a local media outlet that she had filed a lawsuit against 28 people, citing she had offended in the posts and comments. 

Metro Center called on the official to withdraw the lawsuits, saying it is not against the recourse to the courts instead of using violence.

“This is an advanced step, but the multitude of legal lawsuits in a certain matter like against activists, journalists and critics in Darbandikhan manifests that the purpose is pressure and silencing,” the watchdog said. 

“The health center is full of shortcoming and should be under the monitoring,” the watchdog said, noting “monitoring and criticizing the flaws away from libel will strengthen the institutions.”

‎General Health Protection Network, a local health monitor, accused the official of negligence.

“She is working every day at his own clinic. She is an obstetrician and spend most of his time in his private clinic,” the network claimed.  

The Kurdistan Region has come under fire by the human rights organizations such as (CPJ), Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the foreign missions in Erbil and Baghdad for the deteriorating state of the freedom of press and expression.

Metro Center documented nearly 400 violations committed against journalists and media outlets in the Kurdistan Region in 2020.

(Zhyan English)