News

August 26, 2020

Kurdish opposition TV channel’s reporter held for past week

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls for the immediate release of an Iraqi Kurdish reporter who has been held by the authorities in Iraqi Kurdistan for the past week, ever since he was arrested after covering a protest for the opposition TV channel NRT.

NRT’s correspondent in Zakho, a city near the Turkish border, Ahmad Zakhoy was arrested by members of the Asayish (Kurdish intelligence services) and placed in detention on 19 August, since when his family has had no news of him.

 

NRT told RSF that his arrest was the result of his coverage of a protest by Kurdish drivers opposed to Turkish drivers being allowed to enter Iraqi Kurdistan via the Ibrahim Khalil border crossing.

 

After the Asayish prevented him from filming and confiscated his material, he continued to cover the protest for NRT by phone connection and to film it with his smartphone, but the Asayish arrested when he returned home.

 

Neither his family nor his fellow journalists know what he is charged with or where he is being held.

 

“We call for Ahmad Zakhoy’s immediate release,” said Sabrina Bennoui, the head of RSF’s Middle East desk. “It is unacceptable that he continues to be detained and is being denied any contact with his family because he did his duty as a reporter by covering a protest with his telephone, in the absence of a camera.”

 

Continuing a months-old quest to get NRT suspended, the authorities in Iraqi Kurdistan have brought a court action against the TV channel, with the result that its bureaux in Dohuk and Erbil were closed on 20 August. The authorities accuse NRT of helping to “encourage violations and anarchy, and disturb the peace in the Kurdistan region.” The first hearing in the case has been set for 9 September.

 

Iraq is ranked 162nd out of 180 countries in RSF's 2020 World Press Freedom Index.