By Mustafa Saadoun for Al Monitor. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Iraq clamps down on media and broadcast networks covering protests

For the first time, the Iraqi National Communications and Media Commission shut down or gave warnings to 17 media institutions for covering the protests in Iraq.

The offices of Al-Arabiya, Al-Hadath, Dijlah TV, Al-Rasheed TV, NRT, Al-Sharqiya TV, Al-Fallujah TV, Houna Baghdad and Al-Hurra were closed, while Al-Sumariya, Asia Network Television, Rudaw Media Network, Sky News Arabia and Ur Television were warned to change how they cover the demonstrations.

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Euro-Med Monitor launches advocacy campaign to stop the bloodshed against peaceful protesters in Iraq

The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor has sent letters to the European Union and the French and German governments, urging them to exert pressure on the Iraqi government to stop the use of lethal force against ongoing popular protests, and to immediately stop the use of violence against peaceful protestors.

The Geneva-based organization said in a statement that it had sent letters to Federica Mogherini, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Jean-Yves Le Drian, French Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, and German Foreign Minister Haikou Massu, briefing them on the bloody security campaigns against protesters calling for the overthrow of the government of Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi for failing to tackle corruption and solve the issues of power outages and unemployment in Iraq.

The Euro-Med expressed its grave concern over the ongoing violence and repression by Iraqi authorities which was made possible by the agreements signed between the Iraqi government and the European Union against popular protests over the past two months.

In its letter to the Iraqi government, the Euro-Med called for an immediate and serious investigation into the killings by security forces, calling for their withdrawal from areas of contact with protesters, and for ensuring that the perpetrators are brought to justice. The organization called for the release of detainees detained at the protests, compensation for all victims of violations for the illegal use of force by security forces and adopting effective steps to confirm the Iraqi government’s commitment to freedom of opinion and peaceful assembly, as guaranteed by international and domestic laws.

Since the protests erupted on October 1, the Euro-Med has documented the deaths of more than 363 protesters by security forces and snipes, as well as the injury of more than 15,000 others for expressing their opinions, as guaranteed by the Iraqi Constitution and international agreements to protect the right to freedom of peaceful opinion and assembly.

The Euro-Med said its teams documented horrific details of killings and abductions of unarmed demonstrators, journalists, human rights activists and observers, and monitored a series of security campaigns organized by Iraqi police, security forces and military formations against demonstrations, especially in the provinces of Southern Iraq. The organization monitored the closure of several media outlets, most recently on November 24, as the Iraqi government issued a decision to close the offices of 8 television channels, and 4 other media outlets for 3 months for allegedly violating “the codes of professional conduct.”

In a letter to the European Union, the Euro-Med said the French government continues to assist Iraqi internal security forces by providing them with military support and training, including weapons used to deal with peaceful demonstrations. The Geneva-based group noted that Germany too extended in September the training of the German mission (Bundeswehr) of the Iraqi local troops for a year.

The organization added in its letter to the German Foreign Minister, “We find it disturbing that the member states of the European Union continue to help the Iraqi authorities and have not yet considered to benefit from this assistance at least to ensure respect for human rights.”

The Euro-Med pointed out that between 2014 and 2018, Iraq was the main country buying arms from the Czech Republic while during the same period, France provided 8.6% of arms imports to the Middle East, including Iraq.

The Euro-Med stated that although the EU imposed an embargo on arms exports to Iraq in 2003, in 2004 it adopted the Common Position 2004/553/CFSP, which authorized the sale, supply, transfer, or export of weapons and related materials required by the newly established Government of Iraq.

In its letter to the French Foreign Minister, the Euro-Med said that since the outbreak of the Iraqi protests, Paris has not reduced its military assistance nor taken necessary punitive measures against the Iraqi authorities to curb its use of violence against peaceful demonstrators, noting that this unfortunate slowdown could make France complicit in such tragic events taking place in Iraq.

The Euro-Med called on the EU to consider re-imposing the arms embargo, even partially, to ensure that military training and arms exports from EU member states are not used to commit new violations against peaceful protests.

The organization stressed the need for the European Union to consider the use of its assistance to Iraq in order to ensure that the government of Abdul-Mahdi complies with its responsibilities towards non-violent protests and to stop use of force against demonstrators.

The Euro-Med called on the European Union to pressure the Iraqi government to show adequate respect for human rights in Iraq, in addition to pledging not to use EU aid and military supplies to suppress peaceful protests.

The Euro-Med concluded by calling on the French government to suspend the training of personnel and other forms of assistance of the Iraqi government until it abides by its responsibilities towards non-violent protests, stop all forms of use of force against them, and open immediate and serious investigations into the brutal use of violence against them in the last two months and pledge to hold perpetrators accountable in accordance with Iraqi and international laws.

(Source: Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor)

Iraq’s media regulator should reverse its decision to order the closure of 12 broadcasters over a licensing dispute and should allow media outlets to freely cover protests in the country, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said on Monday.

On November 12, the Communications and Media Commission (CMC), Iraq’s media regulator, ordered the closure of eight television broadcasters and four radio stations for three months for allegedly violating media licensing rules, and issued a warning against five more broadcasters over their coverage of protests, according to a copy of the closure decision, which CPJ reviewed, and reports by local news organizations and press freedom groups.

According to the decision, the commission also renewed the closure of U.S.-funded broadcaster Al-Hurra for an additional three months. The outlet was shuttered on September 2 after it aired a report on alleged state corruption, as CPJ reported at the time.

The decision includes a recommendation to the prime minister’s office to send security forces to the outlets to force them to close. According to CPJ’s review of the outlets’ broadcasts, and an official with the media regulator who spoke to news website Arab News, none of the outlets have been closed as of November 25.

The outlets have critically covered the protests that have taken place throughout Iraq since October over a lack of basic services, unemployment, and government corruption, according to CPJ’s review of their broadcasts.

“Iraqi authorities are using all the means at their disposal, legal and otherwise, to intimidate outlets in an effort to prevent them from covering the ongoing protests in the country,” said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Representative Ignacio Miguel Delgado. “We call on the Iraqi Communications and Media Commission to reverse this order and to allow TV broadcasters, radio stations, and journalists to do their jobs.”

The outlets listed in the decision are the Amman-based Dijlah TV and Anb TV, the Dubai-based Al-Sharqiya TV, the Saudi-funded Al-Arabiya Al-Hadath, the U.S.-funded Radio Sawa, the Sulaymaniyah-based NRT News and Radio Nawa, and the Baghdad-based Al-Rasheed TV, Al-Fallujah, Hona Baghdad, Radio Al-Nas, and Radio Al-Youm.

The decision also issued a warning to five outlets to “adapt their discourse to the media broadcasting rules” or else face possible suspension: the Abu Dhabi-based Sky News Arabia, the Beirut-based Al-Sumaria, the Erbil-based Rudaw, and the Baghdad-based Asia TV and Ur TV.

The document recommends that the prime minister’s office approach representatives from the home countries of the foreign outlets listed in the decision, as well as the management of Egyptian satellite provider NileSat, to address the alleged violations.

Iraq’s Communications and Media Commission did not immediately reply to CPJ’s emailed request for comment.

Amid the protests, unidentified gunmen raided the Baghdad offices of four broadcasters, and the Communications and Media Commission ordered Al-Dijlah TV’s transmissions into Iraq to be blocked and its offices shut down for allegedly failing to abide by professional standards, according to CPJ reporting.

(Source: CPJ)

By John Lee.

Iraqi security forces have attacked medical workers for treating protesters since protests began on October 25, 2019, firing on medical workers, tents, and ambulances with teargas and live ammunition, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Thursday. The attacks have left at least one medic dead.

Medics have become another victim of the state’s excessive force,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “These attacks show an utter disregard for the overriding need to ensure medical workers can do their essential job.

More here.

(Source: HRW)

UNAMI launches dedicated reporting e-mail for human rights violations

To further strengthen and expand its fact-finding efforts on human rights violations and abuses, particularly in relation to the ongoing protests, UNAMI has set up a dedicated e-mail address: humanrightsiraq@un.org.

The Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Iraq, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert (pictured):

I encourage anyone with relevant information – whether witness or victim accounts, photos or video footage – to send them to us at this address.

“We continue to monitor and document human rights violations, cases of abduction, threats and intimidation country-wide as well as to raise them with relevant authorities.

In the last two weeks UNAMI has issued two special reports outlining serious human rights violations and abuses in the context of the demonstrations and making specific recommendations to the government to protect the rights of peaceful demonstrators seeking change.

All information received on the dedicated e-mail will be handled with strict confidentiality.

(Source: UNAMI)

UNAMI has found that serious human rights violations and abuses continued to occur during the second wave of demonstrations that started in Iraq on 25 October.

A second report, prepared by the UNAMI Human Rights Office, was published today [5th November]. It follows an earlier special report which covered the 1-9 October protests and was published on 22 October.

The latest report indicates that demonstration-related violence from 25 October to 4 November caused at least 97 further deaths, and thousands of injuries. Although Iraqi security forces displayed more restraint than in the early October protests, particularly in Baghdad, the unlawful use of lethal and less-lethal weapons by security forces and armed elements requires urgent attention.

The Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Iraq, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, stated: “This report also highlights areas where immediate action is needed to stop the vicious circle of violence, and stresses once again the imperative of accountability”.

The report attributes at least 16 deaths – and many serious injuries – to demonstrators being struck by tear gas canisters. “There is no justification for security forces to fire tear gas canisters or sound and flash devices directly at unarmed demonstrators”, said Danielle Bell, Chief of the UNAMI Human Rights Office.

The report furthermore highlights concerns regarding continued efforts to suppress media coverage as well as an ongoing block on social media. Special Representative Hennis-Plasschaert added: “We must recognise that in today’s digital age, daily life has moved online. A blanket shutdown of internet and social media is not only disruptive to the way people live their lives and do business: it infringes freedom of expression”.

Download HUMAN RIGHTS SPECIAL REPORT

By John Lee.

Authorities in Anbar governorate are suppressing the right of residents to show support for demonstrations elsewhere in the country, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has said.

In recent days, they have arrested two men for merely posting messages of solidarity on Facebook, questioned a third, and sent a fourth into hiding.

More here.

(Source: HRW)

By Amnesty International. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Iraq: Gruesome string of fatalities as new tear gas grenades pierce protesters’ skulls

The Iraqi authorities must ensure anti-riot police and other security forces in Baghdad immediately stop using two previously unseen types of tear gas grenade to kill rather than disperse protesters, Amnesty International urged today after its investigation found they caused at least five protester deaths in as many days.

Amnesty International carried out telephone and email interviews with numerous eyewitnesses, reviewed medical records and consulted medical professionals in Baghdad as well as an independent forensic pathologist about the horrific injuries caused by these grenades since 25 October.

The organization’s Digital Verification Corps geolocated and analyzed video evidence from near Baghdad’s Tahrir Square documenting the fatalities and injuries – including charred flesh and “smoking” head wounds. Its military expert identified the types of tear gas grenades being used as two variants from Bulgaria and Serbia that are modelled on military grenades and are up to 10 times as heavy as standard tear gas canisters, resulting in horrific injuries and death when fired directly at protesters.

More here. (CONTENT WARNING: Some of the information and imagery is very graphic and some users might find them disturbing.)

(Source: Amnesty International)

Journalists injured and detained, broadcasters banned as protests resume in Iraq

On Tuesday, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) condemned recent attacks on journalists and media outlets in Iraq, and urged authorities to ensure that journalists can cover the ongoing protests in the country safely and without obstruction.

After a brief lull, anti-corruption and unemployment protests reignited in Iraq on October 24, and led to at least 74 deaths by October 27, according to news reports and a statement by the Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights.

At least two journalists for local broadcaster Al-Sumaria TV have been injured in the latest wave of protests, one journalist was briefly detained, and two broadcasters have been banned, according to statements from the National Union of Journalists in Iraq and local press freedom organization Press Freedom Advocacy Association in Iraq, as well as news reports.

“Iraqi authorities seem more focused on preventing journalists from doing their jobs than on protecting them from harm while they cover protests,” said CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa Representative Ignacio Miguel Delgado. “We call on Iraqi authorities to do all they can to ensure that journalists and news outlets can do their jobs freely and safely.”

On October 25, police fired a tear gas canister that hit Hisham Wassim, a reporter for Al-Sumaria TV, in the face while he was covering protests at Baghdad’s Jumhuriyya Bridge, according to the journalists’ union statement and reports by his employer.

Wassim was seriously injured by the grenade and was taken to Al-Kindi Hospital in Baghdad, according to those reports. On October 27, he was flown to Beirut for surgery, according to his employer. Zian, an Al-Sumaria employee who declined to provide their full name to CPJ, said via phone that Wassim is set to receive minor surgery on his face, but had not sustained any bone fractures.

On October 26, police fired a tear gas bomb that hit Ali Jassem, a camera operator for Al-Sumaria TV, in his right hand and abdomen with shrapnel while he was covering protests in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square, according to his employer, the journalists’ union, and the Press Freedom Advocacy Association in Iraq.

Zian told CPJ that Jassem sustained light injuries and had gone back to work.

At 2:30 a.m. on October 27, a group of counter-terrorism agents stormed into the house of Hussein al-Amal, a reporter for the newspaper Al-Mada, in the southern Iraqi city of al-Nasiriyah and detained al-Amal, his son, and his nephew, according to the Press Freedom Advocacy Association in Iraq and Amir Hamid, a researcher for Al-Mada, who spoke to CPJ via email.

Agents took al-Amal and his family members to the Counter-Terrorism Directorate in al-Nasiriyah on allegations of participating in demonstrations, and released him and his nephew on bail a few hours later, according to a Facebook post by al-Amal. His son was released the following night, according to another post by al-Amal.

In a video posted to Facebook, al-Amal said he had gone to the protests as part of his work as a journalist. The day before his arrest, he had reported in Al-Mada on clashes between protesters and militias in al-Nasiriyah.

Iraqi authorities have also cracked down on news coverage of the protests. On October 24, the Iraqi Interior Ministry banned live coverage of the protests in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square, according to news reports.

Interior Ministry Spokesman Brigadier General Khaled al-Muhanna was cited by the news website Nas News as saying that authorized journalists were allowed to interview protesters and record the protests, but not to broadcast them live.

On October 25, Iraq’s media regulator, the Communications and Media Committee, ordered the Amman-based Iraqi satellite broadcaster Al-Dijlah TV’s transmissions into Iraq to be blocked and its offices shut down for allegedly failing to abide by professional standards, according to news reports and the journalists’ union statement.

Al-Dijlah TV’s offices in Baghdad were ransacked and burned by unidentified armed assailants on October 5, as CPJ reported at the time.

Jamal Karbouli, leader of the Al-Hal Party and owner of Dijlah TV, said on Twitter that Dijlah TV had never violated professional standards, and said it covered Iraq truthfully.

“I prefer the closure of Dijlah TV and the stopping of its broadcast a thousand times over hiding the truth from Iraqis,” Karbouli said in his tweet.

On October 27, Iraqi police told Saudi broadcaster Al-Arabiya and its sister company Al-Hadath that the outlets were banned from operating in the country and urged theirs staffs to cease all journalistic work, citing a licensing issue, according to news reports and a report by Al-Arabiya.

CPJ emailed the Communications and Media Committee and the Iraqi Interior Ministry for comment, but did not immediately receive any replies.

(Source: CPJ)

By Amnesty International. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Horrific scenes as security forces resort to lethal force to disperse Karbala protests

Iraqi security forces resorted yet again to excessive and unlawful lethal force to disperse crowds of largely peaceful protesters in the southern city of Karbala last night, said Amnesty International, after at least 14 protesters were reported killed and more than 100 injured.

Evidence gathered from eyewitnesses and verified geo-located video footage indicates that Iraqi security forces and anti-riot police opened fire using live ammunition as well as tear gas, chasing peaceful protesters staging a sit-in at the Tarbiya roundabout on 28 October. Witnesses also said security forces attempted to run them over with vehicles.

More here.

(Source: Amnesty International)