SULAIMANI (Kurdistan Region) – The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) on Wednesday (July 14) condemned the raid and threats by the security force against a fledging news media outlet and some others in Sulaimani two days ago, calling on the local authorities to allow the outlet to its work.
On Tuesday evening, a security force of about 50 gunmen raided iPLUS Media Corporation building, detained and hurt its employees for about an hour while they were working under experimental broadcasting. The armed force seized CCTV cameras, took out some of the channel's equipment, and broke other channel’s equipment and doors, the media agency reported.
IPLUS is affiliated with the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) Co-President Lahur Sheikh Jangi, who is at loggerheads with his counterpart Bafel Talabani after the latter changed counterterrorism and intelligence chiefs to his loyalists.
On Wednesday, the iPLUS building was handed over to Gali Kurdistan, a TV channel affiliated with Talabani, Gali Kurdistan said.
The CPJ also called on the Kurdish authorities to “ensure that members of the press are able to work freely and without fear of reprisal.”
Three other media outlets — Zhyan News Network, Chaw, and Ajans- were also told by the security force to shutter their gates, reported by CPJ.
The security forces drove in four cars to the Zhyan office, hours after the raid on iPLUS, but all the staff had left before they arrived.
“It is bad enough that journalists and news outlets in Iraqi Kurdistan are often caught between political parties. It is even more shameful that iPLUS is the victim of a dispute for leadership and control within a single party,” said Ignacio Miguel Delgado, CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa representative.
Since Wednesday night, Zhyan News Network's desks on Facebook- Kurdish Sorani and Badini, English have experienced a takedown. The reason behind the closures is still unclear.
Sorani desk now works on an alternative account.
“Iraqi Kurdish authorities must allow iPLUS to resume its work immediately and ensure the press is free to report.”
The raid comes as a delicate time for the Kurdistan Region as it has come under scrutiny by local and international organizations and foreign missions for deteriorating state of the freedoms, such as the press freedom, the freedom of expression and media.