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Young journalist slain; politicians gag journalists in Kurdistan

An independent journalist in Iraqi Kurdistan, who had written critically of a government official, was abducted and killed last week, report the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and the International Press Institute (IPI). Journalists are regularly harassed and threatened as security forces controlled by Kurdish political parties do not hesitate to use violence to stop reporters from covering incidents in the region.

Sardasht Osman, 23, was a reporter for the "Ashtiname" newspaper, and also wrote for several independent news websites. Gunmen abducted him from the university campus in Arbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, on 4 May. His body was found two days later in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul. The journalist had received threats in recent months ordering him to stop interfering in government affairs.

According to RSF, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), the two parties that control the region, seemed to have made a tacit agreement to muzzle the press. Independent and opposition journalists have been barred from covering Kurdish parliament sessions, and political parties have successfully had journalists fired for questioning their policies; authorities routinely summon journalists for interrogation.

Journalists are also beaten by security forces, their equipment destroyed at times, says RSF. Several journalists were assaulted and threatened while covering a student demonstration on 20 April. Journalists covering a student protest on 17 April were also attacked and their cameras were smashed.

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