Bringing Democracy to Iraq

Journalists Face Repression on All Sides
Mohammed A. Salih, Electronic Iraq, 23 May 2007

ARBIL (IPS) – The working environment for Iraq’s journalists is becoming increasingly dangerous and difficult, with 31 killed just since the start of this year, according to the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ).

The dire situation has prompted both international and local media groups to design a new “safety strategy” involving the creation of special offices charged with protecting journalists in the face of “kidnappings, targeted killings and other threats to media”. These offices will be set up in Baghdad and Arbil, and government and well as media outlets will have representatives there.

[snip]

Hasado also criticized the lack of a modern press law in Iraq almost four years after the official end of the war, noting that the same law used to deal with journalists during Saddam Hussein’s regime remains in place.

“That old law has severely restricted the freedom of press… and as a result, every institution gives itself the right to bring charges against journalists based on their own conclusions,” Hasado told IPS.

Several journalists have been sued by officials for stories they published, yet none has been sentenced so far and the cases have been settled behind closed doors, Hasado said.

[snip]

On Jan. 26, for example, the security forces of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan arrested freelance journalist Muhammad Siyasi Ashkanayi, accusing him of spying for Parastin, the intelligence agency of the Kurdistan Democratic Party.

At the end of March, he had not been charged with an offence nor referred to an investigative judge, and remained in detention, the U.N. reported.

A new press law drafted by the KJS to be discussed in the regional parliament would decriminalize media work and prevent journalists from being put behind bars for their reporting.

The IFJ’s general secretary hailed the draft law, saying once approved, it would be one of the two most progressive media laws — along with that of Israel — in the Middle East, where “there are many repressive laws”. Every country whose rights record is criticized by the U.N. should be seriously concerned, White said.

Read it here.

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