The parliament of the Kurdistan Regional Authority, a part of Iraq, has just passed a very dangerous press law, which has drawn vigorous protests from Iraqi Kurdish journalists. AP reports that:
‘ Under the measure, journalists can be prosecuted in counterterrorism courts, which could bring the death penalty, and newspapers can be shut down for up to six months and face fines up to $8,200. ‘
Sawt al-Iraq reports in Arabic that the head of the Kurdish journalists’ guild, Farhad `Awni, and 20 editors of major newspapers and magazines, along with professors of Communication at Sulaymaniya University, launched an appeal to Kurdistan Regional Authority leader Massoud Barzani to veto the bill.
Kurdish journalists smell a rat, and suspect that Kurdish politicians will use the law to close down newspapers that criticize them and put journalists in jail whom they do not like.
Their suspicions are not without some foundation. Even under current laws, journalists have been jailed for “libelling” high Kurdish politicians, though Qadir was ultimately released.
Editors of major newspapers protested the law. The USG Open Source Center said, “Twice weekly Hawlati declares that it will close down the paper if the Media law which was endorsed yesterday by the Kurdistan parliament is not amended.”
I don’t believe that basic civil freedoms will last long in Kurdistan, which is the only part of Iraq where they are even relevant to most people’s lives (civil freedoms are hard to maintain with a lot of bombs going off). The horrible thing is how many US and other lives have been lost so that the Kurds could have the freedoms their parliament is now abolishing.