SULAIMANI – About 100 writers, journalists and activists from the Kurdistan Region and abroad issued a statement on Sunday (February 14) warning that “continued” pressure on journalists and activists will further endanger the situation of free speech.
The statement was directed to the UN headquarters in Erbil and Baghdad, US Consulate, consulates of the European countries, Iraqi Parliament, public opinion, Kurdish diaspora and liberals.
“The Kurdistan Region is in a bad and deep crisis, despite the hardship of the people’s livelihood, free media, civil and political activities are on the brink of collapse, these are due to the continued violation of human rights, suppressing protesters and arrests of the journalists, civil activists and members of the opposition parties,” the statement read.
During a speech on February 10, Masrour Barzani Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Prime Minister accused detained journalists and activists from his party’s prisons in Duhok of being “spies.”
Writers, journalists and activists said “heavy fabricated penal” awaits detainees who have been tortured into falsely confessing to crimes.
“Masrour Barzani’s speeches precede court decision and reveal prepared scenarios used by the government to counter terrorism and protect the region’s security… the lives and safety of the journalists and civil activists are in danger,” writers, journalists and activists said in their statement.
More than 26 journalists, activists and political opposition figures are in the Kurdistan Democratic Party-held prisons in Erbil, Duhok and Badinan, without charge or trial for periods ranging from several weeks to a year.
In its year-end report, the Metro Center documented nearly 400 violations were committed against journalists and media outlets in the Kurdistan Region in 2020.
The violations included 74 arrests without a warrant, 163 detentions, the shuttering of four offices of broadcasters, and 42 cases of confiscation of journalists’ equipment.