Reporters Without Border firmly condemns the murder of journalist Sardasht Osman, whose body was found in Mosul this morning, two days after he was kidnapped outside the language department of Salahadin University in the nearby city of Erbil.
A 23-year-old student of English language and literature, Osman wrote under the pseudonym of Dashti Othman for the newspaper Ashtiname and for various independent websites such as Sbeiy.com, Awene.com, Hawlati.info and Lvinpress.com.
According to Sbeiy.com, Osman was killed because of an article he wrote for Ashtiname about a senior member of the Kurdistan regional government. His family and friends are convinced that his abduction and murder were linked to his journalist activities.
“Osman’s murder again highlights the extreme danger to which independent journalists are exposed in Iraqi Kurdistan,” Reporters Without Borders said. “We call on the authorities to shed light on his death. Those responsible must be arrested and tried. We also urge the government of Kurdistan to accept the gravity of the situation and to ensure that journalists are protected.”
Reporters Without Borders voiced concern about the decline in the press freedom in Iraqi Kurdistan in a release yesterday, noting that the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), the two parties that control the region, seemed to have reached an agreement to muzzle the press and restrict the freedom of journalists as much as possible.
“Many reports and op-ed pieces have been published in which Kurdish journalists and intellectuals are unanimous in voicing their concern about the current situation and their determination to defend press freedom,” yesterday’s press release said (http://en.rsf.org/irak-parties-in-ruling-coalition-agree-05-05-2010,37382.html).
The city of Erbil, where Osman was kidnapped, is mostly controlled by the KDP, whose leader, Massoud Barzani, is Kurdistan’s President. His son, Masrur Barzani, heads the KDP’s security services.
Osman is the first journalist to be murdered in Iraqi Kurdistan since Soran Mama Hama, who was gunned down outside his home in Kirkuk on 21 July 2008. Aged 23 (like Osman), he wrote articles critical of local politicians and security officials for the magazine Leven. He had repeatedly been threatened and warned to stop his investigative reporting but his courage and professionalism pushed him to continue (http://en.rsf.org/iraq-journalist-gunned-down-in-kirkuk-22-07-2008,27900.html).