Journalist stabbed to death and TV stations attacked in northern Iraq

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Journalists continue to work at grave risk to their lives in Iraq. The situation has sharply deteriorated in recent weeks, especially for journalists working in northern Iraq due to the tensions between the Kurdish authorities and the Iraqi federal government following the referendum on Kurdish independence held on 25th September 2017.

According to reports from the Gulf Centre for Human Rights, Reporters without Borders, Committee to Protect Journalists and local media, on 30th October 2017 photojournalist Arkan Sharif from Kurdistan TV was killed by unidentified persons who stormed his house in the village of Haftaghar in Daquq, 40km south of Kirkuk city in the north of Iraq. A day before on 29th October 2017, during a live broadcast, NRT’s TV crew was attacked by demonstrators with batons who stormed the parliament building in Erbil, capital of Kurdistan. NRT reporter Ribwar Kakai was severely injured during the attack, and Saleh Harki, a reporter with KNN TV, as well as several other journalists were also attacked. The demonstrators had gathered to express discontent with Kurdistan President Massoud Barzani's decision not to extend his term of office. Security forces did not prevent demonstrators from breaking into the building.

Kurdish media have also been suspended by the Iraqi authorities. On 23rd October, the Iraqi Communications and Media Commission ordered the suspension of two pro-KDP Kurdish TV channels - Rudaw TV and Kurdistan 24 - claiming that they lacked licences and had been broadcasting reports that incited violence and hatred. Both TV channels denied the accusations.

Media and journalists targeted during Kurdish referendum

Also according to the above-mentioned NGO reports, on the 25th September Kurdish referendum, media were also targeted. Turkish-owned Rudaw TV and two other TV channels were prevented from broadcasting and journalists were prevented from entering voting stations. NRT channel, whose owner had opposed the referendum, was also targeted and forced to close for eight hours the day before the referendum. It was also suspended from broadcasting for a week, five days after the referendum. There were also reports of journalists being harassed in advance of the referendum. On 20th September, Mohamad Wali, a cameraman with Roj News, was arrested and held for eight hours. Ahmed Shingaly, a Kurdish journalist of Yazidi origin, reported on Facebook on 6th September that four gunmen had smashed one of the windows of his car while it was parked outside his home.

Iraq ranks among the top three countries in the world with the highest rate of impunity for killings of journalists, according to CPJ’s 2017 Global Impunity Index released on 31st October 2017. Iraq has failed to prosecute fully for any killing of a journalist, and only one case has resulted in a conviction, but the intellectual author behind the killing remains at large.