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Public prosecutor calls on KRG culture ministry to close NRT

Nalia Radio and Television building (File)
2020-06-21

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SULAIMANI — The Kurdistan Region’s public prosecutor has called on the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) Ministry of Culture to close down NRT's television channels, saying that doing so would help to calm the internal state of the Kurdistan Region.

“The reports and news of NRT’s channels are a reason that people were encouraged to violate all the health ministry’s guidelines and measures and they disrupt the mental state of people during such a sensitive and dangerous time,” alleged the letter, which is dated June 15.

The public prosecutor said that a decision to close down NRT would be in the public interest and help to protect the health of the people.

The letter specifically calls for the closure of NRT’s Kurdish- and Arabic-language television channels.

While NRT does broadcast multiple channels in Kurdish, it has not transmitted television programming in Arabic since October 2019 when armed members of a militia smashed up NRT Arabic’s offices in Baghdad in response to its extensive coverage of the anti-government protests that began that month in Iraq's central and southern provinces. The attack caused significant damage to the channel’s equipment and it has not resumed broadcasting.

The June 15 letter is the third attempt by a KRG entity to shut down NRT since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak in the Kurdistan Region in March.

On April 7, the Ministry of Health requested that the Ministry of Interior close down NRT TV over a report it broadcast highlighting that preexisting conditions such as diabetes and lung ailments contributed to the deaths of several of the first victims of COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus infection.

Then on June 2, the culture ministry issued a formal warning on June 2 alleging that NRT’s coverage of ongoing protests by shop owners angry at the reimposition of a curfew order was encouraging people to disregard public health warnings.

In response the culture ministry’s letter, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said that “the Iraqi Kurdish authorities must stop pressuring NRT TV and must stop using Covid-19 as a pretext for imposing sanctions.”

As one of the few media networks that takes a critical stance towards the policies of the KRG and the Kurdistan Region's ruling parties, it frequently comes under attack from the authorities. Its reporters face harassment, intimidation, and violence in the field and its offices have been shut down and attacked numerous times.

Having skated along on an unearned reputation for tolerance of dissent, the disgraceful conduct of the KRG and the parties with regard to press freedom is increasingly visible in the reports of watchdogs like RSF and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and criticisms by foreign governments like the United States.

(NRT Digital Media)