Iraqi Kurdish journalist jailed for defaming Iraq’s president
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls for the immediate and unconditional release of Bahroz Jafeer, an Iraqi Kurdish journalist held since 22 September in Sulaymaniyah, in northern Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan region, on a charge of defaming Iraqi President Barham Saleh, a Kurdish politician from Sulaymaniyah.
Jafeer has been placed in preventive detention as a result of a complaint filed by President Saleh’s lawyer about an editorial he wrote for the Peyser Press website on 29 August, entitled “How long will the President keep going in the wrong direction?” Jafeer addressed Saleh directly in the article, accusing him of failing to support Kurdistan since becoming Iraq’s president.
Saleh is the founder of the Coalition for Democracy and Justice, a Kurdish political alliance that opposes the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), the dominant political party in Sulaymaniyah.
“Lodging a complaint that sends a journalist to prison for an article critical of the president is a practice worthy of the most authoritarian regimes,” said Sabrina Bennoui, the head of RSF’s Middle East deck. “In the name of the ideals that the Coalition for Democracy and Justice, the movement founded by President Saleh, tries to embody, we call for the immediate and unconditional release of Bahroz Jafeer, who was just using his right to inform.”
Jafeer, who also heads the Sulaymaniyah-based Mediterranean Institute for Regional Studies (MIRS), is facing the possibility of a year in prison and a 100-dinar fine on a charge of criminal defamation, according to the Metro Centre, a local NGO that defends journalists’rights.
In article entitled “Who is Barham Saleh really?” that was published in December 2019, Jafeer analysed the evolution of democracy in Iraq and criticized government corruption.
Iraq is ranked 162nd out of 180 countries in RSF's 2020 World Press Freedom Index.