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Two months since closure of NRT's Erbil and Duhok offices without judicial order

Police forces shut down the local NRT office in Erbil governorate on Thursday August 20, 2020 (NRT Digital Media/Screenshot)
2020-10-20

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SULAIMANI — Two months have elapsed since the local security forces in Duhok and Erbil illegally closed NRT’s offices in those governorates following extensive coverage of protests about the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) handling of deteriorating economic conditions, including its decisions to delay and cut public sector salaries.

In the early hours of August 20, after an evening of coverage of a protest by truckers at the Ibrahim Khalil border crossing near Zakho, the Duhok Asayish closed down NRT’s office there. Police in Erbil did the same to NRT’s office in the Kurdistan Region’s capital that afternoon, chaining the door closed. Both units are affiliated with the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP).

In neither case was a judicial or ministerial order produced to explain any legal justification for why the offices were being closed. In the two months since then, there have been no official communications carrying any legal authority between relevant government entities and NRT explaining the closures or alerting the channel to any pending court cases against it.

The executive authority legally empowered to close media offices and cancel broadcast licenses, the KRG Ministry of Youth and Culture, has denied that it has authorized the office closures. The courts have no record of any active cases against the channel.

Local and international rights groups and press freedom monitors have condemned the KRG’s actions, which they see as part of a broader crackdown on free expression in the Kurdistan Region. It is also part of a years-long campaign by the Region's ruling parties against NRT.

Iraq, including the Kurdistan Region, ranks 162 out of 180 countries on Reporters Without Borders's (RSF) 2020 World Press Freedom Index.

(NRT Digital Media)