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 Independent Kurdish Nalia NRT TV burnt down while carrying reports on Sulaimaniyah events

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Independent Kurdish Nalia NRT TV burnt down while carrying reports on Sulaimaniyah events  20.2.2011  

February 20, 2011

SULAIMANIYAH, Kurdistan region 'Iraq', — A group of armed men have attacked the office of the an independent Kurdish Nalia TV and Radio (NRT) Channel in northern Sulaimaniyah, completely burning it and wounding one of its guards, a security source said.

The channel had started launching programs Feb.17, broadcasting the deadly confrontation between the Kurdish security and the demonstrators on the first day of recent protest rallies in Kurdistan.

The TV and radio office was set on fire at 02:30 local time and a person was injured in the event.

The TV said at its 08:30 news bulletin Sunday, it has been threatened through phone calls to end broadcasting.

"About 50 armed men have broken through the Kurdish NRT Channel in the so-called "German Village" north of Sulaimaniyah, wounding one of its guards in the chest and completely burning its office.

This caused disruptions to the transmission of the channel that used to carry out reports about recent demonstrations and the city," the source told Aswat al-Iraq news agency.

The gunmen forced their way to the headquarters of NRT inside the compound, and attacked the facility, by first shooting at the essential broadcast equipment and ultimately burning down the three-storey building with all its studios and other equipment. The entire headquarter of the station is now reduced to ash.           

Employees inspect the offices of the independent Nalia TV station in Sulaimaniyah, after it was attacked early on Sunday. The station had carried live footage of protests against the autonomous Kurdistan region's dominant political bloc. Photo: AFP

The gunmen, who wounded one of NRT’s guards, subsequently left the compound and left behind them a trail of blood pointing in the direction of Dabashan Hill, where the residence of President Jalal Talabani is in Sulaimaniyah.

The blood trail was created when one of the attackers was wounded as the guards fired at them when they were trying to enter the compound by force.

NRT’s cameras recorded the blood trail all the way to Dabashan Hill near President Talabani’s house in Sulaimaniyah.

The gunmen who conducted the operation in a very professional manner also left behind a partly-burnt green army glove with blood stains on the location.

The building now is yellow-taped for investigation.

The owner of the station, Shaswar Abdulwahid, says that he received a number of threatening remarks from senior politicians of the city and was asked to stop broadcasting. NRT reported the threats and later he was reassured by others like the KRG PM, Barham Salih, and PUK deputy secretary-general, Kosrat Rasul, not to worry and continue broadcasting.

NRT is the first independent television station in Northern Iraq. It started broadcasting on 17th of February, and covered the demonstrations in Sulaimaniyah. It was the only station to broadcast footage of the opening of fire on the demonstrators during the first day of the demonstrations and the events of the following days. The destruction of the station comes at a time when all the other satellite channels can not cover the events adequately. Last night a number of politicians threatened Mr. Sheswar, the owner of the company; NRT reported on those threats. Now, no other TV channels are left to independently cover events in Kurdistan.

According to Twana Osman, the General Manager of NRT, "Kurdistan Regional Government and the PUK as the main party in Sulaimaniyah must be considered responsible for this crime until the perpetrators are found and arrested. This attack is not only against NRT but against the general public of Kurdistan, a dangerous attempt to hide the truth, keep the public ignorant and obstruct and intimidate the independent media."

Noteworthy is that hundreds of demonstrators have gone to the streets of Sulaimaniyah last Thursday, demanding the improvement of public services and living standards, as well as fighting corruption and carrying out political reforms, during which about 7 of the demonstrators were killed and 47 others injured in shooting in front of the headquarters of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), where the demonstrators gathered.

Most of the demonstrators opposed Kurdistan regional president Massoud Barzani and the ruling Kurdistan Democratic Party, and the protest occurred a few hundred meters from the KDP party office.

Sulaimaniyah Governor, Bahruz Mohammed, had announced a curfew between 07:00 p.m. and 07:00 a.m. local time, whilst three headquarters of the Kurdish opposition Gorran (Change) Movement were set on fire in Erbil, Duhok and Suran cities, causing no injuries.

The Gorran Movement had considered opening fire on civilians by the guards of the KDP's headquarters on civilian demonstrators as a "crime," demanding an emergency meeting of Kurdistan Parliament to discuss the current situation.

Meanwhile, an eyewitness told Aswat al-Iraq news agency that the said Channel "had been carrying out an experimental transmission over the past three weeks, and began its actual transmission three days ago, and had been carrying out reports about the demonstrations in Sulaimaniyah, during which it carried video shots of a young man, called Rizwan,
www.ekurd.netwho was shot dead during the demonstrations, along with other shots by the security forces on the demonstrators, close the headquarters of the Kurdistan Democratic Party.

For decades, the KDP of regional president Massoud Barzani and the PUK of Iraq's President Jalal Talabani have lorded over the region.

Massoud Barzani, the KDP chief and current Kurdistan president, and his relatives control a large number of commercial enterprises in Kurdistan-Iraq, with a gross value of several billion US dollars. The family is routinely accused of corruption and nepotism by Kurdish media as well as international observers.

NRT is the first independent satellite channel funded by the private sector. Nalia Company owns NRT for broadcasting, publication and media marketing which belongs to Nalia group for real estate investment. Shaswar Abdulwahid, a 33-year old engineer and investor, is the owner of Nalia Group.

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