The Journalistic Freedoms Observatory "JFO" investigated the arrests and legal violations committed by authorities in the Kurdistan region against a number of journalists and media workers in connection with their coverage of the demonstrations that began on Saturday (6 August 2022) in several Kurdish cities and governorates.
Previously, JFO called on the security forces and judicial courts in the Kurdistan region to act in accordance with the laws in force in the Kurdistan region, which guarantee freedom of the press and respect for the democratic system. JFO also stressed the need to abandon bureaucratic processes that impede media activity and avoid arbitrary arrest and imprisonment of press workers on speculative grounds.
During the past 48 hours, in the three provinces of the region, JFO sources have documented testimonies of arrests without judicial orders, harassment, prevention of filming or confiscation of equipment, in addition to the arrest of most of the correspondents of NRT channel, which also subjected a number of its offices to campaigns.
JFO sources have recorded testimonies of arrests without warrants, harassment, obstruction of filming, and equipment confiscation in the past 48 hours in the region's three provinces. In addition, the majority of the NRT channel's correspondents were arrested.
The Journalistic Freedoms Observatory "JFO" learned that several detainees are still being held, and the circumstances of detention in many centers are appalling.
JFO also expresses surprise at the position taken by the Sulaymaniyah section of the Kurdistan Journalists Syndicate, which made a statement in response to the recent events. In its statement, the Syndicate claimed that "while demonstrating and taking to the streets, the media will certainly be arrested in this case because according to the protest law of 2010, organizing demonstrations requires permission from local institutions". This is regarded as an excuse for the government's arbitrary role in restricting press freedom and expression.
The responsibility of the press is always to cover the event and report what is happening, no matter what rules and methods govern the right to protest in the Kurdistan area, whether they only demand notification of the demonstration or require prior approval.
The ongoing arrests and interference with journalists' work reveal a lack of understanding among the authorities regarding the significance of having professional journalist teams present at the scene of the event.
Preventing professional journalists and specialized media organizations from covering an event will never contribute to obscuring what is happening. Instead, it will contribute to allowing the public and bystanders to take over the task of reporting events without adopting journalistic standards, which may contribute to misinformation and backfire against the authorities that prevented journalists from coverage.
JFO calls on all unions, federations, associations, and observatories concerned with human rights and the rights of journalists, including the Kurdistan Journalists Syndicate, and all its partners, to focus on issuing clear views on the current campaign of arrests and press restrictions.
Furthermore, JFO underlines the need for these entities to stay independent of the authority's speech.