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PM Barzani expresses support for press freedom amid rising concerns

  2021-04-13  | 
 Zhyan News Network
Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Prime Minister Masrour Barzani (R) meets with Metro Center for Journalists’ Rights and Advocacy Rahman Gharib (L) in Erbil, Kurdistan Region, Iraq, April 13,2021. Photo by Masrour Barzani on Twitter
 Zhyan News Network

SULAIMANI – Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Prime Minister Masrour Barzani expressed his support to press freedom and called on the Kurdistan Region’s journalists to cooperate with his cabinet in implementing its reform package as concerns rise about the deteriorating state of the freedom of press and expression.

Barzani’s statement came after he meet with head of Metro Center for Journalists’ Rights and Advocacy Rahman Gharib on Tuesday (April 13). 

“We agreed on the importance of the press to promote transparency and accountability and combat misinformation,” he tweeted. “The KRG is a regional exemplar and steadfast supporter of freedom of expression.” 

Gharib hoped that “the freedom of press and freedom be expanded, which is an important term for advancing democracy in Kurdistan,” according to Barzani’s media office.

Local and international watchdogs have voiced alarm by the aggravating state of freedom of press and expression in the Region, especially after clampdowns on anti-government protests by the security forces affiliated with Barzani’s party the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) in areas under its jurisdiction last year. 

Last summer and autumn, a number of journalists and activists were arrested by the KDP-affiliated forces in Duhok in a crackdown viewed as a bid to quash protests and criticism over KRG’s decision to delay and slash public sector salary payments amid deteriorating economic conditions.

In February, five of the detainees were sentenced to six years in jail over controversial charges of undermining the security and stability of the Kurdistan Region.

The convicts have denied the charges. 

385 violations against journalists and media outlets were logged throughout 2020, according to Gharib’s watchdog. 

On December 12,2020, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) called on Barzani to respect press freedom. Also, the US has shed light on the state of press freedom in Department of State's annual report, especially the case of the detained and convicted journalists and activists. 

In 2020, the KRG Prime Minister Masrour Barzani’s cabinet withheld five monthly pays and slashed others by 21 or 18 percent cuts to purportedly fight low oil prices, the COVID-19 pandemic and budget rows with the central government with Baghdad.

In January, 2020, the Kurdistan Parliament approved the Reform Law proposed by Barzani’s cabinet.

The law purportedly aimed to reform in public salaries, allowances, privileges, pensions and other benefits, more notably the removal of shadowy employers from the KRG’s payroll.

But the KRG still struggles to distribute full pays to the Kurdistan Region’s public sector employees.

(Zhyan English)