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In Iraqi Kurdistan, journalists are victim of political tension

Video journalists take cover behind a wall amid fighting in the region of Altun Kupri, about 50 km from Erbil, the capital of autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan, 20 October 2017
Video journalists take cover behind a wall amid fighting in the region of Altun Kupri, about 50 km from Erbil, the capital of autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan, 20 October 2017

MARWAN IBRAHIM/AFP/Getty Images

The following is an excerpt of a 21 March 2019 CPJ blog post by Ignacio Miguel Delgado Culebras/CPJ Middle East and North Africa Representative.

Mission journal: Journalists in Iraqi Kurdistan are under pressure from authorities in the autonomous northern Iraqi region, with news outlets shuttered and critical reporters arrested. With government formation talks underway, CPJ's Middle East and North Africa representative Ignacio Miguel Delgado travels to Erbil, Sulaymaniyah and Duhok to hear from local journalists on how the partisan divide in Iraqi Kurdistan makes them vulnerable to attacks and harassment.

It was not the first time that Rugesh Sherwani's husband, the Kurdish freelance journalist Sherwan Sherwani, had been in jail. That's perhaps why nothing in her gestures showed anxiety or fear. Quite the contrary. She was composed and determined when she received me in the living room of her house on the outskirts of Erbil in February. As she detailed her efforts to visit Sherwani in jail and bring international attention to his case, Rugesh held a sleepy child who, oblivious of our conversation, sucked his thumb and stared intently at his mother.

"Since the Red Cross saw him in jail two weeks ago, neither relatives, nor lawyers have been able to visit him. Three days ago, I went to Zirka Prison in Duhok, but the prison officials told me Sherwan wasn't there," she said, referring to a detention center in a northwestern Iraqi Kurdistan city. "He hasn't yet been taken to court to give testimony or allowed to see the evidence against him. Other journalists have been released on bail and forced to sign documents promising to cut all ties with Sherwan. I have met U.N. and U.S. embassy officials to ask them to put pressure on the Kurdish authorities to release Sherwan."

Read the full blog post on CPJ's site.

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