NRT Kurdish reporter Goran Luqman was among a group of journalists who were temporarily detained by security forces on Friday in Piramagrun, a town northwest of Sulaymaniyah.
The journalists, from outlets including NRT TV, Rudaw TV, and Payam TV, were covering a peaceful protest against the recent introduction of point-to-point cameras by the Traffic Police at the time of their detention.
NRT’s Kozhin Kamaran, a cameraman, was also among those detained.
NRT Kurdish reporter Goran Luqman was conducting a live interview with a protester when his colleague, cameraman Kozhin Kamran, was abruptly detained, disrupting their live broadcast.
According to Luqman, security forces associated with the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) detained the journalists. They were physically assaulted, verbally abused, and had their equipment confiscated before being taken to a security station, Luqman told NRT English.
Arkan Ali, a journalist with Rudaw, echoed these allegations. He reported to his media outlet that he had been punched, struck with a rifle, had his equipment destroyed, and was subjected to insults.
Following their detention, which lasted more than half an hour, the journalists were released without any charges.
Responding to the incident, the Metro Center, a media advocacy group, issued a statement strongly condemning the assault on the journalists. They stated that such treatment of the press is indicative of the security forces’ disregard for peaceful protests and press freedom.
According to figures from the Metro Center, there were at least 431 such violations recorded in the Kurdistan Region last year.
Last year alone, there were 431 violations against more than 300 journalists, including detainment, imprisonment, assault, and prevention of coverage. This was some 78 violations higher than the preceding year. The PUK, coming in second to the KDP, was responsible for dozens of those violations, despite claims by PUK leader Bafel Talabani that he has “absolute belief in press freedom.”
Talabani made a statement on Kurdish Press Day on 22 April, 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.”
Local and international reports, however, 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 recently released reports on these rising violations against journalists in the Kurdistan Region.