Following UN report, KRG pledges commitment to press freedom

KRG Coordinator for International Advocacy Dindar Zebari speaks to reporters in Erbil, Nov. 29, 2021. (Photo: Kurdistan 24)
KRG Coordinator for International Advocacy Dindar Zebari speaks to reporters in Erbil, Nov. 29, 2021. (Photo: Kurdistan 24)

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – On the day after a report by the United Nations Assistance Mission to Iraq (UNAMI) and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) critiqued recent events related to press freedom in the Kurdistan Region, Coordinator for International Advocacy Dindar Zebari on Thursday pledged his administration's continued commitment to the rights of the media.

The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), Zebari said in a statement, "continues to work with UNAMI and the OHCHR on media freedom, both in terms of wider policy and legislative changes as well as specific situations."

"While we don't think it accurately portrays the situation in Kurdistan," he added, "we appreciate the UN's commitment to discussion." 

Although the UN report states that it "does not purport to make any findings on the guilt or innocence of the individuals concerned," it states that researchers responsible for the report "observed a consistent lack of respect for the legal conditions and procedural safeguards necessary to guarantee fair judicial proceedings before an independent and impartial tribunal."  

Zebari's statement responded, “The KRG is committed to making improvements where they are needed. To take this work forward, KRG has invited the OHCHR, UNAMI and international organizations to support the KRG in improving institutional processes in Kurdistan.”

The Coordinator for International Advocacy also said that the KRG is working with "foreign representations and international counterparts to further train local judges," adding, "We will continue to safeguard and expand media freedoms."

In May alone, he said, the two UN agencies "conducted fourteen visits and interviewed 60 prisoners."

He continued, "The legal proceedings solely rely on the laws and rules in place. The UNAMI/OHCHR report analyzes alleged shortages within the realm of freedom of expression, regardless that some of these cases manifested violence, conspiracy to destabilize the security of the Kurdistan Region, and the implication of outlawed militant groups."

“The courts are independent, and the government bodies merely enforce the laws," concluded the Kurdish official. "The prosecutions enjoy impartiality and transparency."