Iraqi Kurdistan magazine chief jailed on
Lvinpress chief held in police custody
Kurdistan region 'Iraq', — The Editor in Chief
of the independent Kurdish magazine Livinpress has been arrested
following a libel lawsuit raised against him by the
Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG)'s Minister of
Natural Resources Ashti Hawrami.
Mr. Ahmed Mira was arrested on Sunday as he was
leaving a hearing in Erbil, part of
filed against him by the Kurdistan Democratic Party
(KDP) earlier this year.
After being informed in Erbil that his case had been
referred to the court in Sulaimaniyah where Mira
resides, the Livinpress chief was informed of the
“While we were leaving the court, we were informed
that another lawsuit against Mira had been raised by
the KRG minister of natural resources Ashti Hawrami,”
said Ibrahim Ali, the managing editor of Livinpress.
Ahmed Mira (L), the chief editor for Lvin weekly
“We were not informed of the new suit beforehand so
we appealed that the case be transferred to
Sulaimaniyah as well.”
The case concerns a report published in issue 140 of
Ashti Hawrami, and allegations
Ali said he was unable to say more about the lawsuit
filed by the KRG Minister of Natural Resources Ashti
Hawrami last year, complaining that both Mira and
the editorial team at Livinpress had been kept in
the dark about it.
It was ruled that Mira will remain in custody for 5
On May 17, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), led
by Kurdistan President Massoud Barzani, filed a
defamation law suit against the editor-in-chief of
Livin, Ahmed Mira,www.ekurd.netfor printing an article about an
alleged plot by the KDP and its ruling alliance
partner the Patriotic union of Kurdistan (PUK), to
assassinate opposition leaders.
Court documents reveal that the KDP is seeking
$864,000 in damages and the cancellation of the
magazine’s license to operate.
The documents say that Mr. Barzani’s party is suing
Mira because the published article in question “not
only has no basis in truth but is a threat to
national security [and] a violation to the dignity
and glory and the great achievements” of the region.
Just two weeks previously on May 5, the PUK leader
and Iraqi President, Jalal Talabani, filed a
separate law suit over the same article.
Ali said that Mira’s arrest was only made possible
by the fact that he is not a member of the Kurdistan
Journalists Syndicate (KJS) and so unprotected by
KJS secretary Hamid Mohammed told AKnews however
that Mira's arrest under the Iraqi penalty law
remains a violation of Kurdistan’s journalism law.
“We at the KJS believe that Mira's arrest was
wrong,” Mohammed said, “…he should have been dealt
with in accordance with the journalism law in
According to the Kurdistan Region's Journalism Law,
journalists can not be interrogated under any other
law, Mohammed explained.
“We have charged the legal advisor of the KJS to
take legal action to free Mira from Jail,” he said,
expressing the hope that Mira would be released
within 24 hours.
A damning Human Rights Watch (HRW) report published
last month pointed an accusatory finger at Kurdish
government officials for carrying out “a growing
assault” on the freedom of journalists working in
the semi-autonomous northern Iraqi region.
The report openly calls on the Kurdish authorities
to stop repressing journalists through libel suits,
beatings, detentions, and death threats.
The organization cites claims that Kurdistan
officials have repeatedly attempted to silence the
“The Kurdistan Regional Government promised a new
era of freedom for Iraqi Kurds, but it seems no more
respectful of Kurdish rights to free speech than the
government that preceded it,” HRW’s Middle East
director, Sarah Leah Whitson, said following the
publication of the report.
“In a time when the Middle East is erupting in
demands to end repression, the Kurdish authorities
are trying to stifle and intimidate critical
Speaking of the first lawsuit brought against Mira,
Whitson condemned the KRG, accusing them of
bully-boy tactics vis-à-vis the region's independent
“Such libel suits by Kurdistan government officials
are nothing more than a thinly-veiled effort to
punish critics and create an atmosphere of fear and
self-censorship,” Whitson said.
“The attacks by Barzani and his colleagues on
independent journalists do more to undermine Kurdish
‘dignity' and ‘glory' than anything in the media
Massoud Barzani 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. In May 2010 the
journalist Sardasht Osman was murdered after criticising the Barzani family. In
July 2010 the opposition paper Rozhnama accused the Barzani-led KDP of pocketing
large sums from illegal oil-smuggling.
Iraqi Kurdistan is still considered one of the
regions with the most press freedom in the Middle
East. The situation threatens to deteriorate
rapidly, however. Kurdistan passed a new press law in 2008.
This law prohibits prosecution based on an opinion
piece. The law was signed by Massoud Barzani who
now threatens the independent media with fine after
fine. In order to continue imposing restrictions on
independent media he is relying on the use of
obsolete laws from the days of Saddam Hussein.
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