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MON, 30 NOV 2020 Kurdistan Region (GMT +3)
KDP FR ■  SAT, 10 OCT 2020 03:55

Human Rights Watch (HRW) Shares Misinformation about Freedom of Expression in the Kurdistan Region

Today, October 6, 2020, Human Rights Watch (HRW) shared a news piece about the closure of a number of NRT offices in the Kurdistan Region, accusing the KRG of putting restrictions on the freedom of speech and freedom of expression. Moreover, the piece asserts that NRT received no warnings before the closure and that the proceedings lacked legal requirements.

In this respect, the KRG’s Office of the Coordinator for International Advocacy (OCIA) shares the below statement:

As far as the Kurdistan Region is concerned, the KRG’s Office of the Coordinator for International Advocacy (OCIA) is responsible to assess, follow up, circulate, and respond to allegations pertinent to human rights. Furthermore, whenever a human rights issue is at stake, this office is authorized to convey the position of the relevant ministries and agencies to international platforms. KRG has taken legal steps in dealing with NRT that is consistent with the stance of the Ministry of Youth and Culture, and the instructions of its legal establishments.

(HRW) shared misinformation about freedom of expression in the Kurdistan Region. In the case of the closure of the NRT offices, OCIA contacted the Ministry of Youth and Culture, which emphasized that they have issued several warnings since June. Additionally, the General Prosecutor demanded NRT's broadcast suspension in June due to encouraging citizens to violate the preventative and social-distancing measures issued by the government.

The General Prosecutor Office in the Kurdistan Region impartially operates under the Judicial Authority. It has the authority to oversee the legitimacy of the laws and regulations, protect national security, pursuing the implementation of the law, observing violations conducted by government and non-governmental institutions, among others. As far as the above-mentioned matter is concerned, the General Prosecutor approved a request from the relevant authorities to pursue the potential violations.

Freedom of speech and expression is guaranteed by law. There are hundreds of TV channels, journals, newspapers, radios, etc. that operate freely and independently in the KR. However, a number of media agencies often aim to damage public security and civic values.

NRT and its sponsor Shaswar Abdulwahid have consistently aimed to exploit the freedom media agencies enjoy in KR for their own political agenda. Abdulwahid is not merely an independent entrepreneur now; he also leads a political party. He nonetheless utilizes NRT's platform to fulfil his political tendencies. Ironically, they usually resort to provocative propaganda campaigns amid critical circumstances, such as during the war against terrorism and coronavirus outbreak.

Article 2 from Law No. 12 (2010) enacted by the Ministry of Youth and Culture, whenever a media agency encourages public disturbance and harm social harmony, the aforementioned ministry retains the right to take the following procedures: 72 hours closure as the first penalty; a week in the case of repetition; and in the final notice, the ministry will terminate its license.

NRT has violated the rules stipulated in the above-mentioned law; the Ministry of Youth and Culture sent several warnings to NRT, urging them to soften their rhetoric that incentivized hundreds of people to not abide by the protective regulations issued by the government. The last warning was delivered on June 3, 2020. It alluded to the fact that KR-I goes through a critical period, which demands implementing social-distancing and protective measures to be surpassed. Hence, the warning letter contended, NRT has violated regulations issued by the Ministry of Youth and Culture.

Nevertheless, despite its violation of the Ministry of Youth and Culture's legal framework for the third time now, NRT's license has not been suspended. Only their offices have been temporarily suspended. Furthermore, no reporter or correspondent of NRT is detained.

The rights and duties of journalists are enshrined in Law No. 35 (2007). KRG firmly believes in democratic values, primarily the rights of free speech and free expression. Nonetheless, the act of journalism should not be exploited as a means to fulfill political ambitions, especially amid critical situations.

KRG Office of the Coordinator for International Advocacy (OCIA)
October 6, 2020

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