- Organization for Defending Freedom of Press in Kurdistan
To: Amnesty International
Committee to Protect Journalists
Reporters Without Borders
International Press Institute
International Center for Journalists
All civil society organizations and civil federations
Calling all supporters and defenders of rights of journalists- we plead with you, as true humanitarians and defenders of free speech and the rights of intellectuals, journalists and media, to make every effort possible to come to the defense of journalists and objective media outlets in the Iraqi Kurdistan region.
The beating, prosecution, imprisonment, torture, oppression and intimidation of journalists have become a daily occurrence in Iraqi Kurdistan. In the last three weeks alone, at least eight journalists have been beaten, tortured or threatened with murder. As many as 200 additional attacks and violations against journalists and independent media outlets were documented between 2008 and 2009. These documented cases include allegations of murder, kidnap, beating, torture, prosecution, imprisonment, removal of position in government and the threat of receiving the death penalty.
Today, in the strongest possible terms, we condemn all violations against journalists, specifically the attack and beating of Hawlati reporters Ara Ibrahim and Soran Ahmed by security forces in Silemani. Hawlati, or “Citizen” (www.hawlati.com), is an independent, privately-owned newspaper, first published on November, 5th 2000. Hawlati was established with the aim of defending freedom of speech, human rights, and promoting the development and enhancement of a democratic society through dialogue.
These tragic beatings, kidnappings and other violations are nothing short of organized crime in its wildest, most inhuman form. They represent a very dangerous step in the wrong direction, raising the real possibility of a return to oppression, civil war, the slaying of innocent men and women and kidnappings. These attacks have lead to a pervasive climate of fear and are, in no uncertain terms, crimes against humanity and gross violations of freedom of speech and are eroding Kurdish democracy, civil society and liberty in Iraqi Kurdistan.
Sadly, behind all of these egregious acts are mafias run by the two dominant Kurdish political parties, Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), and corrupt officials within the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). Additionally, the courts and judges seem to be complicit in these crimes by they repeatedly refusing to hear cases against potential violators or simply dismissing them without investigation. Even though it is commonly known who is committing these crimes, there have been no arrests.
Therefore, we are calling on all individuals, groups and international organizations who are dedicated to the defense and preservation of the freedom of speech to intervene on behalf of journalists and independent media outlets in Iraqi Kurdistan and demand an immediate end to and prosecution of the crimes being committed against them by the political party “security force” mafias.
We are now launching an international and universal campaign to protect journalists. It is time for us all to condemn these immoral, inhuman and dictatorial acts against those whose goal is the preservation and promotion of democracy, justice and equality through their objective and independent reporting. Please join us in our campaign to protect journalists and freedom of speech in Iraqi Kurdistan.
Organization for Defending Freedom of Press in Kurdistan