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Reporters Without Borders calls on KRG to stop pressuring NRT over protest coverage

2020-06-13

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SULAIMANI — Reporters Without Borders has called on the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to refrain from putting pressure on NRT to stop covering protests against the government’s handling of the local coronavirus outbreak.

In response to a serious surge in the number of cases of coronavirus infection, the KRG attempted to reimpose a curfew earlier this month, but was forced to backtrack after protests from shop owners and workers took place in Sulaimani and other cities.

The protesters said that they were in a precarious financial position and having to close their shops would have made it difficult for them to make ends meet.

The KRG’s culture ministry issued a formal warning on June 2 alleging that NRT’s coverage of protests was encouraging people to disregard the public health warnings. In April, the health ministry had asked the interior ministry to take “strict legal measures” against the channel for its coverage.

“The Iraqi Kurdish authorities must stop pressuring NRT TV and must stop using Covid-19 as a pretext for imposing sanctions,” said Sabrina Bennoui, the head of RSF’s Middle East desk, said in a statement issued on Friday (June 12).

While covering a protest in Sulaimani on the same day that the culture ministry issued its warning, NRT reporter Ehsan Sabir and cameraman Mohammed Hassan were attacked by members of the Asayish and their equipment was seized.

“Preventing a media outlet from doing its job to provide information on the grounds of its support for a rival political party constitutes obstruction of media pluralism,” Bennoui added.

Iraq, including the Kurdistan Region, ranks 162nd out of 180 countries on Reporters Without Borders’ 2020 World Press Freedom Index.

(NRT Digital Media)