Press freedom groups document over 300 violations in Iraq during 2020
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Press freedom organizations recorded the death of three journalists and over 300 other violations against various media workers in Iraq during 2020, with the disputed province of Kirkuk placing at the second-highest number of incidents after the capital of Baghdad.
The Press Freedom Advocacy Association in Iraq (PFAAI), previously known as the Society for Defending Press Freedom in Iraq, documented 305 such violations across the country which included several forms, including, assassination, arrest, detention, beating, obstruction of coverage, confiscation of photographic equipment, as well as attacks on or closure of media institutions.
In a new report, the association indicated that the most serious violations were recorded in the first three months of 2020, related to ongoing popular protests in central and southern Iraq against institutional corruption, chronically poor services, and a low standard of living.
Most other cases appeared to have been exacerbated by new and sometimes unclear procedures for imposing a comprehensive coronavirus curfew and the exclusion of journalists from such regulations, according to the report.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) documented multiple press freedom violations in a recent report as well, highlighting incidents in which unidentified gunmen shot 3 reporters in the head killing while they were covering protests, while a fourth reporter died in the autonomous Kurdistan Region while covering protests in Ranya district in August "after falling as he tried to escape clashes between protesters and security forces."
The PFAAI stated that 17 provinces witnessed violations against journalists, but that authorities in Baghdad had been the most restrictive of press freedoms for the second year in a row with 61 total cases. Kirkuk came second with 58 cases.
In the southern city of Basra in January, unidentified gunmen assassinated al-Dijla channel correspondent Ahmad Abdul Samad and photographer Safaa Ghali while they were covering protests there.
In May, security forces in Kirkuk detained a Kurdistan 24 channel crew consisting of correspondent Hemin Dalo and photographer Nawzad Mohammad and confiscated their personal phones, cameras, and other equipment after their coverage of the effects of mass wheat and barley crop fires.
In early August, Kirkuk forces detained Mohammad again along with Kurdistan 24 correspondent Soran Kamaran while they were covering a demonstration against attempts to force members of the Kurdish population from their homes and farms.
More recently on Dec. 12, security forces in rural villages in Kirkuk's Dibis district detained a number of reporters on duty and took them to an unknown destination. Authorities later said that they were arrested on charges of failure to obtain routine official approvals from the province’s operation command and the army.
The year began with the January assassination of a journalism professor at one of the world's oldest universities, located in Baghdad. The professor, Hussein al-Quraishy, was shot by unidentified gunmen in front of his own house.
Editing by John J. Catherine