News

August 14, 2020

Reporter dies after fall, others held during protests in Iraqi Kurdistan

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) deplores a journalist’s death and harassment of other reporters by security forces in Iraqi Kurdistan on 12 August, when the authorities did their best to prevent the media from covering major anti-government protests in several of this autonomous region’s cities.

The fatal victim of what the Kurdish media called a “black day” for journalists was Huner Rasool, a journalist with Gali Kurdistan TV, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan party’s official TV channel.

 

He died of his injuries after falling as he tried to escape clashes between protesters and security forces in Ranya, in Sulaymaniyah provinces. Colleagues reported that he died about one hour after being rushed to hospital.

 

Many other journalists were briefly detained by security forces, especially those working for NRT, whose owner is the founder of the opposition New Generation party. They included reporter Harem Khalid  and his cameraman, who were detained for four hours in Koya.

 

In Dohuk, security forces prevented journalists from leaving the local NRT bureau, forcing them to cover the local protest by communicating remotely with participants. In Erbil, security forces briefly detained NRT reporter Muhammad Amir and his cameraman, confiscated their material and did not return it.

 

“All these press freedom violations in a single day are extremely shocking,” said Sabrina Bennoui, the head of RSF’s Middle East desk. “The authorities clearly tried to prevent journalists from covering the protests by detaining them and by confiscating their material. Such flagrant obstructions of the right to inform are unacceptable.”

 

NRT’s journalists were not the only one’s targeted. A reporter for the Kurd One news website and a Payam TV reporter were also briefly detained.

 

Journalists have been repeatedly harassed in Iraqi Kurdistan since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Several journalists were briefly detained in April for covering protests or referring to them on social media. In June, the prosecutor-general sought NRT’s suspension on the grounds that it was encouraging curfew violations.

 

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