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Before wrapping up today, here is a short analysis of KRG Premier Masrour Barzani's statement on the Kurdish Journalims Day:

KRG Premier Masrour Barzani's Statement on Kurdish Journalism Day Raises Concerns
By Nova Daban

On the 125th anniversary of the first Kurdish publication, 'Kurdistan,' by Mikdad Midhat Bedir Khan, it is customary for the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and political parties to offer congratulations. This year, KRG Prime Minister Masrour Barzani made a statement that has raised concerns.

In his statement, Barzani expressed support for the press, which would be commendable if the KRG's press freedom track record were more positive. As we mentioned earlier, there were 431 violations against journalists in the Kurdistan Region last year alone, with the majority perpetrated by the KDP-affiliated security forces.

Additionally, Barzani stated that "the media should not become a platform for spreading extremist ideas, inciting violence, and insulting people, national values, and symbols." This assertion raises concerns about what might be considered "spreading extremist ideas and inciting violence and insulting people, national values, and symbols."

Given Barzani's background as the spy chief of his party and the Kurdistan Region, and with the Kurdistan Parliament dominated by his party, there are questions as to how these not-easily-defined values could be used to silence opposition and dissent. Several journalists in the Kurdistan Region have been tried and sentenced for "treason" in the last few years, including some among those known as the Badinan detainees.

Instead of creating "a dangerous working environment" for journalists, as described by the media advocacy group Metro Centre, the KRG should have promised a safer working environment for all journalists. The lack of accountability and recognition reflects what Metro said earlier today: "There is no political will in the Kurdistan Region to become a beacon of democracy, allowing journalists to carry out their work without fear of retaliation."

So, instead of vowing to protect journalists, the premier is giving us a lesson on how to do our jobs! No, thanks; at least leave us alone to carry on.
UK expresses support for press freedom in the Kurdistan Region

"The UK is committed to #mediafreedom, ensuring that every day of the year journalists are able to work without undue interference and that freedom of expression is protected"

UK Consulate General in Erbil

KRG's board responsible for the affairs of the disputed territories has just issued this tatement on the latest incident in Palkana village in Kikruk:

While we express our resounding condemnation and concern, we expect the cabinet of [Iraqi Premier] Mohammed Shia Sudani to limit such adversity so that they would not repeatedly take place. Finally, we assure everyone that the situation in the region is now calm, but we believe that Article 140 [of the Iraqi constitution] is the general principle of a final solution to the problems. And we call on the Iraqi presidency, Kurdish ministers and parliamentary factions in Baghdad to use their constitutional powers to implement this constitutional article and increase their efforts to end these violations.


NRT English has learned that the Iraqi Army commanders and the Arab famers have met earlier today ahead of the evacuation of the Arab farmers from Palkana village.
Tensions subside as Arabs farmers evacuate Palkana village

Mohammed Amin, a representative of the Kurdish farmers in the Sargaran sub-district, told NRT English that most of the Arabs who had stayed in the Paklkana village following the clashes with the local Kurdish farmers have now left the village.
More than 1,600 licensed media outlets operates in KRI

According to Karwan Anwar, Secretary of the Sulaimaniyah Branch of the Kurdistan Union of Journalists, there are more than 1,600 licensed media outlets in the Kurdistan Region, Kurdish Service of Voice of America reports.

More than 8,500 journalists are members of the Kurdistan Union of Journalists.

Anwar said that hundreds of social media pages have been launched and used as a field to "resolve conflicts, including business and political conflicts, disputes between companies, individuals, groups and tribes."
credit: Pinho on Unsplush
The drone crash comes as the Iraqi Security Forces have said earlier today they have successfully thwarted "a terrorist plot" targeting markets in Kirkuk and captured two alleged ISIS members.
Drone crash site secured

Anti-ISIS coalition forces said no one was injured, and no damage to civilian infrastructure was reported at the drone crash site. It added that the site of the crash was quickly secured and cleared.


Opposition leader praises journalists not affiliated with ruling parties

The leader the of opposition New Generation party in the Kurdistan Region, Shaswar Abdulwahid, says that on the anniversary of the first Kurdish publication, he is proud of all the journalists who did not give in to the “embezzled oil and other local revenues” and kept on telling the truth.

NRT journalists were by far the most targeted in the Kurdistan Region last year, with 39 incidents or 28% of the total involving its staff, according to Metro Centre’s data.

Peshmerga Forces move towards Palkana village in Kirkuk

Peshmerga Forces move towards Palkana village in Kirkuk following conflict between Kurdish and Arab farmers, according to KDP affiliated Rudaw.

Nuri Hama Ali, commander of the fifth front of the Peshmerga forces in western Kirkuk, told Rudaw that they had moved a Peshmerga force towards the Palkana.

According to the report, the Peshmerga forces have not entered the village yet but may be deployed nearby. "We are on the line with the Iraqi forces to avoid any tensions," he said.

According to Abdulmutalib Najmaldin, the acting mayor of Sargaran subdistrict where Palkana village is located, three people were injured in the fighting and were being treated in hospital.

NRT Kurdish reporter Diyar Mohammed has learnt that Kurdish and Arab farmers in Palkana village plan to meet to resolve the issue.
Update on Palkana village:

At least 23 people have been injured during the clashes between Kurdish and Arab farmers. According to local witnesses, the incident started when  Arab herders had entered farmlands belonging to Kurdish farmers, causing the clashes.
Anti-ISIS US-led coalition forces are seen near the site of a crashed drone in Daquq, between Wahda and Tolia villages, investigating the incident. The coalition forces said earlier that the drone had crashed due to technical issues.
credit: NRT Kurdish

Peshmerga forces warn of entering Palkan within 24 hours 

NRT Kurdish has learned that peshmerga forces in Pirde, Kirkuk province, have warned of entering Palkana village, which falls under the control of the Iraqi security forces, 'if the Arabs do not leave within 24 hours.' 

A Kurdish farmer from Palkana village, Kirkuk province, tells NRT Kurdish that some 200 armed Arabs, not native to the area, have come to their village.

Ethnic Tensions in Kirkuk Village Go Unreported; KRG PM Condemns the Incident

In a statement issued yesterday, the Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) condemned the attack on ethnic Kurds in the village of Palkana, located in the Dibis District. Masrour Barzani stated that this was an attempt to change the region's demographics, making clear suggestions for Arabization. The multi-ethnic and oil-rich city of Kirkuk has consistently been at the center of disputes in Iraq, as it underwent Arabization during Saddam Hussein's Baathist regime.

The KDP-affiliated Rudaw website reported that a dozen people were injured in clashes between Arabs, who were reportedly not native to the area, and ethnic Kurds of the village. The incident prompted the Iraqi army to deploy a force in the area.

Arabization, which involved displacing the country's ethnic minorities such as the Kurds, Turkmens, and Assyrian Christians to make way for incoming Arab populations, was a tactic employed by the Baathist regime to control cities deemed important to the regime. Since the fall of the regime and the announcement of a new government and constitution, Kirkuk's fate has remained unsettled. Article 140 of the constitution outlined a political process for determining Kirkuk's fate, which included demographic normalization, a census, and a referendum on whether the city would join the Kurdistan Region or remain under the control of the federal government. This referendum, which was meant to be held by 2007, never took place, perpetuating disputes between Baghdad and Erbil.

Despite previous governors being Kurdish, the Iraqi government controlled the province's security until the rise of ISIS in 2014. Local security forces vacated the area following the disintegration of the Iraqi army, and the Kurdistan Region's Peshmerga forces, predominantly from the PUK, filled the vacuum, effectively taking control of the city's security.

In 2017, after the ill-fated Kurdistan independence referendum, which included the disputed territory of Kirkuk, the Iraqi security forces forced the Peshmerga forces out of the city. Since then, the city has been under the control of Iraqi security force with an acting governor from the Sunni-Arab component. Since then, there have been various reports of Arabization in Palkana, among other areas, with independent outlets like Kirkuk Now frequently releasing reports about land issues facing the Kurds.

The KDP has frequently raised the issue in Kirkuk, using it as a subtle opportunity to highlight PUK's negligence of the city and express its desire to return its security forces to the province.

Fact-checking PUK leader Bafel Talabani's claim of "absolute belief in press freedom"

Talabani made a supportive statement on Kurdish Press Day, saying, "We have an absolute belief in press freedom and brave journalists. We have never seen ourselves above criticism; on the contrary, we support any attempt to identify our faults and show us the right path."

However, examining last year's figures, where at least 431 violations were recorded in the Kurdistan Region, paints a different picture:

The PUK, coming in second to the KDP, was responsible for at least 37 of those violations. Winthrop Rodgers did a good job for Nesar Record analyzing the press freedom violations data provided by the Metro Centre.
credit: The Nesar Record
Today marks the 125th anniversary of the first Kurdish newspaper publication, and it is crucial to highlight two significant issues affecting journalism in the Kurdistan Region:

1- The KRG (both KDP and PUK) continues to overlook Law number 35 of 2007, which organizes journalism in the Kurdistan Region. This law protects journalists from arrests related to their work; however, authorities have exploited other laws to suppress press freedom. Despite the law supporting journalists' right to write and publish freely, they continue to face constraints such as arrests and violence.

In 2021 alone, there were 431 violations against journalists, including detainment, imprisonment, assault, and prevention of coverage. Local and international reports reveal the growing danger of the profession, as Hazhan Khalid from Metro Centre told NRT English. The US State Department and Amnesty International have also released reports on these growing issues in the Kurdistan Region.

2- The majority of media outlets in the region have political affiliations, and Kurdish journalism has yet to establish a sustainable business model. Consequently, professional and unbiased coverage is scarce, making it even more challenging for the few outlets striving for impartial reporting. With the proliferation of misinformation online, Kurdish authorities have opted to crack down on journalists rather than promote and encourage a free press.

According to Metro, it is evident that "there is no political will in the Kurdistan Region to become a beacon of democracy, allowing journalists to carry out their work without fear of retaliation."

The tense political climate, fueled by KDP-PUK tensions and intra-PUK conflicts, makes the situation even more precarious for local journalists.
US consulate in Erbil congratulated Kurdish Press Day and said:

We will continue to support media freedom, free, fair, and professional news coverage, and access to public information in the #Iraqi_Kurdistan_Region, and we honor all those journalists who continue taking great risks to bring meaningful news coverage to the people of the IKR.

US Consulate - Erbil

Summarizing the state of journalism in the Kurdistan Region, here what Local media advocacy group Metro Centre said:

"Journalists are constantly threatened and harassed during political tensions, and on other days, they face beatings, arrests, and various forms of violence, while the perpetrators have escaped punishment."

Metro Centre


Good morning, happy Saturday, and welcome to the NRT English live blog. I'm Nova Daban.

While it is a calm day as we are on the second day of Eid al-Fitr, there are a couple of stories we are following:

  • Today is the 125th anniversary of the publication of the first Kurdish newspaper, 'Kurdistan' in Egypt, by Mikdad Midhat Bedir Khan. The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the ruling political parties have also traditionally used the day to express their support for freedom of the press. Still, violations against the media and journalists in the Kurdistan Region continue to persist. Only recently, NRT Kurdish journalist Hersh Qadir was detained in Erbil for doing his job before being released later in the day. We at NRT English congratulate all journalists who have dedicated their work to Kurdistan.

  • KRG Prime Minister Masrour Barzani has condemned the attack on the Kurds of Palkana village in Kirkuk province. He stated that this was an attempt to destroy the positive atmosphere they were creating with Iraq's Prime Minister. He went on to say this was also an attempt to change the region's demographics through intimidation and advocated for implementing Article 140.

  • Lastly, politicians in the Kurdistan Region have used the Eid al-Fitr holidays to speak about resolving the ongoing issues between the ruling KDP and PUK parties.