Journalism in South Kurdistan

Journalists in South Kurdistan work under difficult conditions. They are arrested and shot at while working, and areas controlled by the KDP are not accessible to opposition media workers.

Journalists in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) face threats, arrests, detentions and obstacles in their work. According to a 2020 report by the Kurdistan Union of Journalists, 138 rights violations have taken place against 365 journalists and 47 media outlets. In the past year, journalists have been arrested along with activists during anti-government protests. Over twenty media professionals remain in prison. Opposition journalists are denied access to KDP-controlled areas. Journalists working in Sulaymaniyah, Shengal and Maxmur told Zeynep Durgut of the MA news agency about their working conditions.

Berhem Letîf is a correspondent for the RojNews news agency in Sulaymaniyah and says: "We are confronted with arrests, detentions, obstructions and violence. Freedom of the press is being significantly restricted. Pro-government media are not affected. Free journalism is to be intimidated. To prevent government corruption and theft from being exposed, more attacks are taking place."

Duhok and Hewlêr are banned

Letîf further reports that he is not allowed to enter several cities: "Duhok and Hewlêr (Erbil) are closed to free media. Only pro-government media are allowed to work as journalists. For example, chemical weapons have been used 306 times in the regions of Zap, Avaşîn and Metîna. The KDP does not allow us into these areas to investigate and report. Journalistic work is banned. I have been arrested twice while working. If we are not arrested, our cameras and phones are confiscated. News sites are closed without giving any reason. We continue our journalistic work anyway, that's what we are fighting for. I was arrested while following student protests. After two days, I was released, but all my equipment was confiscated. Four months have passed since then, I still haven't gotten the stuff back."

Even inside the camp

Armanc Herekol is a journalist at Maxmur refugee camp and says working conditions are difficult: "The KDP does not allow us to work here. This is not only true for Hewlêr and Duhok, since journalistic work is not allowed even inside the camp. We report on what is happening here. The fact that we uncover and publish what is happening does not suit the KDP. It knows that we will denounce it for selling Kurdistan piece by piece. That is why our way is blocked. We are blocked because we expose the siege of Maxmur. Despite everything, we are making public what is really happening."

Shot at several times while working

Xelil Şengalî works as a journalist in the main Yezidi settlement area of Shengal. He says that he is constantly threatened by weapons from the Iraqi government and the KDP while working: "There is a special situation in Shengal because there is a high military presence here. Therefore, journalistic activity is continuously hindered. Several journalists have been shot while working. One of them was Nûjiyan Erhan. I was arrested in Sinûnê while working, and my equipment was confiscated. I have been shot at specifically during several activities. We can't get past the KDP's military checkpoints. It is afraid of us."