ERBIL, Kurdistan Region of Iraq - The US is pleased with the decrease in violations against the press and journalists in the Kurdistan Region, the US consulate said on Wednesday.
The US “is pleased to see a significant decline in reported press freedom violations and supports an environment where journalists can freely work without fear of intimidation, harassment or politically motivated discrimination,” the consulate wrote in a post on Facebook.
Violations against journalists and the press have decreased by 42 percent in the Kurdistan Region, though this does not make the situation perfect in the region, the head of a media watchdog said on Wednesday.
“We are facing a new situation which is that violations have decreased in numbers, unlike previous years, but we cannot say we are in a perfect situation as the types of violations appear very strongly,” Director of Metro Center for Journalists Rights and Advocacy Rahman Gharib told The New Region on Wednesday.
The watchdog in January published their annual report on the violations against press and journalists in the Kurdistan Region in 2023.
According to the report, the amount of violations decreased from 431 cases in 2022 to 249 cases in 2023, marking a 42 percent decrease in the amount of violations.
The report added that the violations included confiscation of equipment, arrest of journalists, prevention of coverage, and a list of other violations.
“It is true that the number has dropped … there are a number of regulations that need to be given legal power, meaning they should become a substitute to journalism laws,” Gharib said.
“All this shows us that we are not in a perfect situation and we still have many struggles,” he added. “The civil society and media in the Kurdistan Region should talk to the government and together encourage the Kurdistan Regional Government towards increasing freedom in hopes to end the complaints against the Region from international entities.”
The Kurdistan Region has previously faced criticism over the state of press freedom in the region.
“The U.S. is concerned about the recent backsliding of press freedom in the IKR and is committed to working with local and international partners to improve the media landscape,” the US Consulate said in a post earlier this month.
Responding to the US, KRG spokesperson Peshawa Hawramani cited Metro Center’s report and claimed that the consulate’s statement is in contradiction to their “appreciation for the decline in the violations,” that they have expressed to the KRG in meetings.
Addressing the issue of press freedom in November, Kurdistan Regional Prime Minister Masrour Barzani said that people are free to criticize the government.
“People criticize, they criticize my government every day, and they're free. There is a difference between chaos and freedom. There is also a difference between freedom of expression and defamation,” Barzani said in a panel during the Middle East Peace and Security Forum.
“I hope that there would be some comparison and some data provided five years, 10 years ago, and today, where journalism is and how the government has treated journalists and this profession,” Barzani added.