March 8th 2010
Iraqi elections have witnessed dangerous violations by military and security sides against journalists and their media institutions. Kurdistan region has had the lion’s share of these violations. It witnessed 23 cases of violations while Baghdad and other provinces witnessed 27 cases.
Some of the journalists and media teams have been banned while others have been arrested. On the other hand some of the private military forces have shut down printing houses in Baghdad and arrested 6 people whom their destiny is still unknown on bases of violence incitement .Some other forces have shut down a weekly newspaper and confiscated its electronic apparatus.
The absence of law has become clear through the actions of military forces in Baghdad and other parts of Iraq as most of the arresting cases were not based on court-issued warrants.
On 28 Feb. police and army forces stormed in three printing houses (Maghrib, Janoob,and Kawthar) .They took a booklet called (Where Iraq's Money Gone) ,and arrested six people to take them to unknown destination . They besieged the targeted printing house for many days and prevented media means from getting there. The booklet was confiscated as it contained sixteen-pages vitriol of the government for wasting public treasure and failing to treat corruption over the past four years.
The verdict issued by Baghdad Operations Command later on alleged that these printing houses where issuing seditious publications, yet the JFO searching team showed the incredibility of these allegations. The teams, also, got a copy of the booklet and found out that it contained general criticism of the current government performance by contending candidates, and it didn't contain any of the alleged seditious publications.
Another detachment stormed into Al-Shahid Al-Mustaqil weekly newspaper in the middle of the capital, and confiscated number of computer devices as well as driving the employees out ans shutting down the newspaper.
Saad Al-Ousi, editor- in- chief, of the newspaper said that four vehicles belong to the security forces stormed into the newspaper on Feb. 5th and confiscated the electronic archive of the paper and shut it down.
Al-Ousi , who is a well-known journalist for his sharp tone against corruption, said that a warrant were issued against him and other 9 people from the editorial team according to the item 4 of terrorism fighting law . He clarified that two of the warrants are issued from investigation committee in the cabinet.
Al-Ousi added that confiscating the PC's and shutting down the newspaper won't impact the regular issue of the paper and won't change its policy.
On the other hand, Haroon Rashid, Al-Itijah Satellite Channel correspondent, has been arrested while covering elections by the security forces in Al-ilwiyah district. He was trying to cover the private voting at the time. Also, Haider Hasson Al-Fiza'a was injured in his hand after being shot in Al-Shaaab neighborhood by military forces.
Jabbar Tarrad, editor –in- chief of Iraqi Media Agency, said that Al-Fiza'a has been shot in hand when the checkpoint opened their fire at him. He added that Al-Fiza'a was driving and showed them all authorizations that would allow him to take a tour and cover the event, yet they shot him.
The polling stations where journalists allowed to cover elections were very few in Anbar as the IHEC allowed them 3 polling stations only out of 610 to cover elections there.
Bilal Fawzi, AP photographer was battered by the police members in Falluja while trying to picture the inside of the polling station in Falluja, whereas Iraqi army members belong to the first band, second brigade have threatened a number of journalists to imprison them inside one of the military vehicles and take over their cameras , while their journalist colleague was interviewing people in Falluja as they expressed their views towards the army and accused them of inability to maintain security in the province with beginning of voting.
A journalist in Falluja who preferred not to mention his name said that army members tore his authorization letter and took the film out of his camera while a lieutenant started to beat him with his photographer by the help of another two soldiers till they were knocked down. They didn't break off until citizens around interfered to let them go and avoid more punches.
Ramadi military forces didn't allow local and international journalists to enter polling stations before dropping their pens and papers at the entry.
Imad Mohammad, a freelance, told JFO that military forces has done that as pretext to prevent journalists from covering the private & general voting details, clarifying that there was "obvious breaches" at these stations .
In Maysan, police and military forces curbed the journalists during elections and refused to grant them authorizations in order to pursue their coverage.
Saad Hasan, Al-Sabah News Correspondent, said that no journalist managed to get a car badge to be able to cover the voting process.
He also added that the IHEC allowed journalists to cover 10 polling stations only , 3 of them were located in the suburbs of the city.
On the other hand, Maysan elections commission provided three cars for the journalists to carry over their job and travel between the polling stations, yet most of the them didn't like the idea saying it will curb their job ,besides the number of the cars is few compared to the journalists there.
In Mosul, the deputy of JFO there said that Media office of Nineveh Operation Command prevented Al-Rasheed Channel team and the BBC correspondent from covering the elections at the polling centers allowed by the IHEC itself. The officer threatened the journalists of arrest if they didn't leave the polling center in spite of the letters of authorizations they were carrying to cover the vote.
Kurdistan region has witnessed immense breaches against journalists and their institutions in a way that urges us to stand strongly against whoever threatens the freedom of journalism and expression.
Metro Journalists Defending Rights Center which works in cooperation with JFO has documented almost 23 different breaching cases since campaigning has been launched till the closure of the ballots.
The report shows the size of threats against the freedom of journalism and the influence of the politicians that undermine this freedom and prevent journalists to have an easy access to the facts.
JFO calls on all of the political blocs, governmental apparatus, and police & army forces to show respect to all democracy standards and work according to the constitutions and Iraqi rules.