Protesters and journalists denied access to legal representation


As we've previously reported in the CIVICUS Monitor, dangerous conditions for journalists in Iraq have drawn international condemnation. In another recent example of the perils faced by members of the media, on 2nd February 2018, Iraqi freelance journalist Samir Obeid was arrested by Iraqi security forces at a checkpoint in Baghdad. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, he was taken to intelligence headquarters in Baghdad where his car, luggage and money were seized by authorities. 

In the weeks prior to his arrest, Obeid had posted an article drawing attention to allegations of corruption by Iraqi authorities on Facebook. As a prominent journalist with a strong social media presence, Obeid has over 24,000 followers on Facebook, leading to the article being widely disseminated. This is the second time in four months Obeid has been arrested. He was previously arrested in October 2017 and later released in relation to another article where he criticised the Iraqi prime minister. Regarding his most recent detention, on 19th February 2018, Iraqi authorities stated that he will remain in police custody until his case is heard on 19th March 2018. 

According to the Metro Centre for Journalists’ annual report for 2017, eight journalists were killed in Iraq, and 419 cases of press freedom violations and harassment of media were documented during 2017. The organisation reiterated calls on Iraqi authorities to conduct an investigation into all documented cases. In response, a representative from the Parliament Committee on Culture and Information, Mr. Farhan Jawhar, replied:

 "We in the Committee on Culture and Information will examine those violations and we call on the government to put an end to those violations.”

The report adds another input to the growing chorus of domestic and international groups urging Iraqi authorities to do more to protect journalists from harassment and extralegal threats. 

Peaceful Assembly

As covered in Iraq's previous update on the CIVICUS Monitor, unrest in Iraqi Kurdistan has prompted concerns over the treatment of detainees. According to Human Rights Watch, journalists and protesters arrested in December 2017, were held without charge for at least eight days before being taken before a judge. During this period, reports allege that individuals were held incommunicado and were denied communication with their families or access to legal counsel. Upon their release, nine individuals were also forced to sign a commitment that they would not attend any future protests, and six were forced to promise to not post anything critical of the Kurdish Regional Government or encourage protests on social media.