Reporters Without Borders released its annual report on press freedom around the world and found Iraq lacking. The country dropped in standing from 162 to 163 with the higher the number the worse the situation.
The group pointed to threats against journalists in both federal Iraq and in the Kurdistan region. The Hashd al-Shaabi intimidated journalists who covered the protests that started in October 2019 and the government obstructed their coverage. 10 media outlets were suspended for reporting on the demonstrations for instance. The Communications and Media Commission also suspended Reuters for a story that the Health Ministry had told doctors not to talk to reporters about COVID, while the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) closed NRT TV for a report that the authorities were exaggerating COVID cases to discourage demonstrations. These issues are nothing new. While Iraq professes press freedom it always has been limited by the powerful. Not only reporting about protests but investigating corruption can also lead to threats and intimidation.
A few days later Kurdistan celebrated Journalism Day. Five reporters are currently imprisoned on trumped up charges. Three were sentenced to six year in February 2021 for threatening security. Two more were arrested in August 2020 and January 2021 and not been released since. All were detained in Kurdistan Democratic Party controlled areas of Kurdistan. It’s just another example of how the ruling parties do not want a real flow of information and ideas.
NRT, “On Kurdish Journalism Day, At Least Five Journalists Are Behind Bars In Kurdistan Region,” 4/22/21
Reporters Without Borders, “Iraq,” April 2021