Press Freedom | |

There is a plethora of both official and independent press outlets that have sprung up in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq since the popular uprising of 1991 and particularly since the liberation of Iraq in 2003.

Freedom of publication and freedom of expression are guaranteed by law in the Kurdistan Region.  Although our Region has a long way to go for the development of a completely free and professional press, we have taken steps in the right direction.  In September 2008 the Kurdistan National Assembly, the regional parliament, passed a law to protect the rights of journalists and to set the foundations of a free and professional press.

The new law, which was designed to guarantee more freedoms for journalists, has abolished jail terms for offences such as defamation. It also abolished heavy fines and the closure of publications that were called for under the laws the Kurdistan Region inherited from the Saddam Hussein-era.

Kurdistan Region President Masoud Barzani has been one of the principal advocates of an independent and professional press in the Region.  He has repeatedly called for the development of a free press that is professional, that observes the ethics of journalism and that takes into account the sensitivities of our culture.

In a meeting with a delegation of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) in Salahaddin in May 2008, President Barzani reiterated his strong belief in greater liberties for journalists.  He noted that earlier he had referred a draft press law back to parliament for reconsideration because of some of the legal penalties and restrictions included in the draft. He said, “Referring back the recent draft shows that we want freedom of the press. We don’t want to put restrictions on journalists, and at the same time journalists also have to be committed to their profession’s principles. We should not forget the environment in which we live, and the culture of persecution of the former Ba’ath regime that unfortunately has left its mark on Kurdish society.

We regard journalism as a respected profession. Journalists must respect it, too, and not allow themselves to be used as a tool by others or resort to defamation to serve a particular agenda. Journalists are free to criticize, but their criticism should be constructive and not defamatory,” the President continued.   

In another gathering with representatives of the press in the Kurdistan Region in September 2008, President Barzani said, “I am totally in favour of freedom of press...But this does not mean that the press can violate the rights of others.”  

He went on to say that the media has a vital role to play in the Region's political process. It must criticize, but the criticisms have to be specific and backed up by evidence. In order to serve the people and provide them with the access they need to hold the government and its officials accountable, news outlets in the Kurdistan Region must attain a higher level of compliance with international journalistic standards so that the people can rely on them for accurate and balanced information. 

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