SULAIMANI – Journalists should be allowed to exercise their right to freedom of expression, said the new US Consul General to Erbil in his first public appearance on Monday (July 12).
“There should be no government efforts to restrict the freedom of media and expression,” said Robert Palladino during a graduation ceremony of the Minority Journalist Training Program.
Remarks by Palladino comes on his second day as US Consul General to Erbil and coincides with Monday’s court trial against four Duhok activists and teachers.
“The United States believes that journalists should be able to report without restrictions or fear of retaliation,” Palladino said.
“Americans believe strongly that a free press is one of the cornerstones for democracy, and we value the role of journalists because it is the role of journalists that hold the powerful accountable and ask the tough questions.”
Recently upheld by the appellate court, three journalists and two activists were sentenced to six years in prison by an Erbil criminal court in February over charges amounting to undermining the stability and security of the Kurdistan Region.
The Kurdistan Region has come under fire for the court ruling and its approval by the foreign missions in and out the Kurdistan Region and several international watchdogs.
Forty-nine violations have been recorded against journalists and media outlets in the first quarter of 2021 in the Kurdistan Region, Metro Center for Journalists' Rights and Advocacy said on May 3.
In its year-end report, the Metro Center documented nearly 400 violations against journalists and media outlets in the Kurdistan Region in 2020.