ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – In the first half of 2019, there have been 65 cases of reported violations against Kurdish Journalists in the disputed areas of Iraq, according to reports.
The disputed parts of the country, chief among them Kirkuk Province, have been administered by Baghdad-appointed officials since Iraqi forces along with the Iran-backed Hashd al-Shaabi attacked the areas and forced the withdrawal of the Kurdish Peshmerga.
Since then, Kurdish residents of the disputed territories have complained, on multiple occasions, in several areas about being pressured by Arabs to leave their homes and other property. Along with this, members of the press were barred from covering incidents involving such reported violations against Kurds. On occasion, journalists were also completely disallowed entry to such areas by Iraqi forces at checkpoints.
The Kurdistan Syndicate of Journalists stated in a press release on Monday that in the first six months of 2019, there have been 65 violation incidents against 27 Journalists working in territories disputed between the Iraqi federal government and the Kurdistan Region.
The Syndicate highlighted that journalists are becoming the victims of political tension, with a high number of arrests, attacks, and harassments by Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) in Khanaqin, Kirkuk, and in Mosul.
“The integration of media with political affiliation, absence of the law of freedom of information and the security void in the disputed areas are all factors of violence directed towards media personals,” stated the Syndicate.
The statement added, “journalists in disputed territories are victimized twice, once for their duty in attaining information, second for the geographic and ethnic issues in those areas.”
Beyond that, the statement continued, “another reason is that journalists are lacking legal awareness of the laws that can protect them.”
“This report tells us that journalism work in disputed territories is about to endanger the lives and safety of Kurdish journalists.” The KJS also called on all sides to “abide by the laws to provide a safe atmosphere for the profession.”
A mix of Kurds, Arabs, Turkmen, and Christians live in territories claimed by both the Kurdistan Region and Iraq.
Article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution provides for a referendum to be held in the ethnically-diverse province of Kirkuk as well as other disputed areas by the end of 2007 to determine their future, but it has yet to be implemented by subsequent Iraqi governments.
Editing by Nadia Riva
(Kosar Nawzad contributed to this report)