Sunday, February 20, 2011

Kurdish TV station set on fire; journalists face threats

Sulaimaniyah, February 20, 2011: The Metro Center to Defend Journalists condemns the violent attack on Nalia satellite television station on Sunday and dozens of violations against journalists amid ongoing demonstrations in Sulaimaniyah, Iraqi Kurdistan.

At 2:30 am on Sunday, approximately 50 gunmen raided privately-owned Nalia TV station in Sulaimaniyah and opened fire on the station’s guards, injuring one before entering the three-story building. The gunmen then riddled Nalia’s broadcasting equipment with bullets and torched the building, staffers told the Metro Center to Defend Journalists.

Twana Osman, director of the station, told Metro Center on Saturday that the station had been under pressure by some factions, which he did not identify, to stop broadcasting. Nalia is Kurdistan’s newest satellite channel, and had only begun broadcasting on February 17.

“This is a dark day for journalists in Iraqi Kurdistan. We condemn the vicious attack on Nalia TV,” the Metro Center to Defend Journalists said. “It seems the attack had been planned, given that the gunmen fired on all of the station’s broadcasting equipment and then set the building on fire. We call for an independent committee to be formed to investigate the incident and bring those responsible to justice.”

Metro Center to Defend Journalists has documented about 40 violations against journalists, including gunshot injuries, arrests and harassment, since demonstrations broke out on February 17 in the city of Sulaimaniyah.

Hemin Abdul-Latif, a reporter with Destur news website, and Ari Mohamed, a photographer with Metrography photo agency, were injured when the Kurdistan Democratic Party’s security guards opened fire on protesters on February 17. One teenage boy was killed and nearly 60 were injured during the incident.  

Namo Namiq, a producer from KNN satellite channel which is affiliated with the main opposition faction Goran, (Change) was arrested with a colleague while they were in downtown Sulaimaniyah during a city-wide curfew on February 17. His colleague has been released but Namiq remains in detention, KNN reported.

Earlier that day, Goran, KNN’s local TV channel and its radio station were set on fire in Erbil, Change reported. 

The staff of Hawlati, Iraqi Kurdistan’s oldest independent newspaper, vacated their offices on February 17 after receiving threats for covering the demonstrations. Hawlati reopened its offices two days later.

About Metro Center:

Metro Center to Defend Journalists is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit organization to defend the freedom of press. The Center represents the Baghdad-based Journalists Freedom Observatory in Iraqi Kurdistan.

For more information, please contact:

Rahman Garib: 07701523300 (Kurdish and Arabic)
Mariwan Hama-Saeed: 07701940930 (Kurdish, Arabic and English)
Facebook: Metro Center to Defend Journalists

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