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Journalist arrested, may face "terrorist activity" charges; another released; Kurdish regional government forbids reporters to visit PKK bases

(RSF/IFEX) - RSF has urged the Kurdish regional government in northern Iraq to lift a prohibition on visits by journalists to the bases of the Turkish armed separatist group, the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). RSF also called for the release of a correspondent of the satellite television station Kolsat who was arrested on 19 November 2007 in Mosul, 80 km west of Erbil, the regional capital.

"Kurdistan is one of the few regions in Iraq where local and foreign journalists can move about freely without constant risk to their lives," RSF said. "This ban is a serious violation of their ability to report on the clashes in Iraq between the PKK's fighters and the Turkish army. The regional government in Erbil and the national government in Baghdad must stop blaming journalists for crises."

On 19 November, the Kurdish regional government prohibited journalists from going to meet PKK combatants who have found refuge in the Qandil mountains on the border between Iraq and Turkey. Kurdistan Regional Government spokesman Jamal Abdullah said "media reports have led to an acceleration of the crisis with Turkey."

The Iraqi Journalistic Freedoms Observatory said several journalists were arrested near the Turkish border as a result of the regional government's decision.

In a separate development, Fayçal Gazala, the correspondent of the satellite television station Kolsat, was arrested on 19 November at his home near Mosul by Kurdish security forces and could face charges of "terrorist activity". He is reportedly being held in the Dohuk police station.

The Iraqi news agency Aswat Al-Iraq meanwhile reported that the editor of the weekly "Al-Fayçal", Mohammed Mazhar Al-Shaheen Al-Shumari, was freed on 17 November. He was arrested by the US military in October in Tikrit (180 km north of Baghdad) for reasons that are still unknown.

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