Permanent closure of NRT channel not within our authority: KRG culture ministry

Nalia Radio and Television building (File)

1388 View

+ -

SULAIMANI — In response to a request by the public prosecutor, the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) Ministry of Culture said on Wednesday (July 8) that the permanent closure of NRT is not within the ministry’s authority.

The ministry said in a letter that it can only warn channels and suspend their broadcast for a week.

On June 15, the prosecutor sent a letter to the ministry requesting that NRT’s Kurdish- and Arabic-language television channels should be shut down because they “disrupt the mental state of people during such a sensitive and dangerous time” for the Region, specifically citing NRT’s coverage of the coronavirus outbreak as justification.

Despite the request in the letter to shut down any Arabic-language transmissions, NRT has not broadcast in Arabic since October 2019, when its offices in Baghdad were attacked by armed militia in response to its coverage of the anti-government protests that broke out that month in central and southern Iraq.

Additionally, official letters were filed in April by the KRG health ministry and in June by the KRG culture ministry itself calling for NRT to be closed.

The three attempts to close NRT were widely condemned by local and international journalism watchdogs as attacks on the already beleaguered state of press freedom in the Kurdistan Region.

In response to the public prosecutor’s request, Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) Middle East and North Africa Representative Ignacio Miguel Delgado said that the ministry “should reject the request to close NRT, and allow the broadcaster to continue to cover the COVID-19 pandemic and any other newsworthy events freely, including protests.”

“Iraqi Kurdish authorities should not be in the business of harassing and intimidating local outlets in an effort to change their coverage of important issues,” he added.

The KRG also came under criticism from local press freedom watchdog the Metro Center for Journalists’ Rights and Advocacy.

Head of the Metro Center Rahman Gharib said in response to the same incident that “Media is an important pillar of democracy.”

“If you close down a broadcaster, why would you call yourself a democracy?”

(NRT Digital Media)