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IFJ and its affiliate the Kurdistan Journalists Union (KJS) call for press freedom ahead of Iraqi elections

Shaswar Abdulwahid, owner of NRT Channel and a campaigner for the 'No' vote in the 2017 Kurdish independence referendum, casts his ballot at a polling station in Sulaimaniyah, 25 September 2017
Shaswar Abdulwahid, owner of NRT Channel and a campaigner for the 'No' vote in the 2017 Kurdish independence referendum, casts his ballot at a polling station in Sulaimaniyah, 25 September 2017

SHWAN MOHAMMED/AFP/Getty Images

This statement was originally published on ifj.org on 21 March 2018.

Following a spate of attacks on journalists and their equipment in Iraq over the past few days, the IFJ and its affiliate the Kurdistan Journalists Union (KJS) have called for full respect for press freedom and the right of journalists to report freely and safely ahead of national elections in May.

On 17 March 2018, an NRT TV van was attacked by residents in the Chamchamal district of Sulaymaniyah in the north -east of Iraq while a crew was live streaming a campaigning tour by Shaswar Abdulwahid, the owner of NRT Channel and head of the list of the AlJeel AlJadeed (the New Generation) political party.

On 20 March, Rudaw News corrsepondents Hunar Ahmad and Hardi Mohammed and photographer Zana Taqiddin were arrested while covering celebrations of the Newroz festival in Kirkuk, northern Iraq. Representatives of counter-terrorism forces dressed in civilian clothes arrested the media professionals as they were taking a break from work in a Kirkuk café.

KJS reports that the journalists were assaulted and taken to an unknown location. Some of their equipment was damaged. They were released late on Tuesday night following protests by the KJS and media.

IFJ General Secretary Anthony Bellanger warned against any attempt to intimidate the press in Iraq ahead of the 12 May national election. "We call on the Iraqi authorities to investigate these attacks against the press and respect the right of journalists to report freely and safely. As Iraq will soon elect its new political leaders, we remind politicians and media owners that covering elections in countries where there are strong political rivalries stands among the most dangerous assignments for journalists. All necessary steps must be taken to refrain from incitement against media professionals or exposing them to danger."

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