CPJ says release journalist Bahrooz Jaafar, arrested after Salih lawsuit

Iraqi President Barham Salih addresses the UN General Assembly on September 23, 2020 (Twitter/@iraq_un)

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SULAIMANI — The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) called on Wednesday (September 24) for the immediate release of Bahrooz Jaafar, who was detained following a lawsuit by Iraqi President Barham Salih.

Salih’s lawyers filed a criminal defamation suit after the journalist published articles in Peyser Press and elsewhere criticizing the president. He was arrested in Sulaimani on Tuesday and will remain in custody until a hearing on September 30, unless he is granted bail before then.

“Iraqi authorities should develop a thicker skin and stop resorting to the criminal code to stifle critical reporting and commentary,” said CPJ Middle East and North Africa representative Ignacio Miguel Delgado in a statement.

“Iraqi President Salih should immediately drop the defamation complaint…and local authorities should release him unconditionally,” he added.

On Tuesday, Salih addressed the UN General Assembly praising his country’s youth for their “determination” in pursuing “freedom and rule of law,” an apparent contradiction to his own actions restricting freedom of the press.

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

(NRT Digital Media)