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April 12, 2011

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Journalists in Erbil demand end of violations against them & KRG Peshmerga Minister, secures parliament confidence 

Kurdishaspect.com - By Shwan Zulal

A group of journalists from Erbil the capital of Kurdistan Region have issues a statement asking the government to end the numerous violations against them. In the letter, which has been signed by 53 journalists, they say after 17 February events in Kurdistan as protests started, the attacks on journalists trying to cover the events have been systematic. The attacks are more persistence in the capital city and many journalists have been beaten and threaten, said the journalists. Furthermore, they claim that the attacks on them have been physical while they have been blackmailed in person and by phone.

"We are not going to let the threats stop us doing our job... and we hold the authorities and security forces responsible for all the attacks taking place in the city of Erbil", said the group. They also accuse the authorities of turning a blind eye on all the violations taking place against journalist in Kurdistan. 

The journalists are demanding an end to all the sanctions on free media organisations and call on the public prosecutor to follow up all the violation and violence against journalists as well as finding and bringing the perpetrators to face justice. Moreover, the group asks for disbanding the "paralysed Journalism association" and replacing it with an independent body. 

The repeated attacks on journalist in Kurdistan have been well documented and reported by other media organisations like RSF (Reports Without Borders). The approach adopted by the authorities especially in Erbil has been a standard practice for KRG in order to try to create a media blackout and prevent independent and opposition reporters from seeing what is happening on the ground in Erbil.

In another development in light of what is happening to Journalists, there are reports that the head of the Gali Kurdistan media network, Jamal Husain, have resigned. The broadcasting outlet is PUK owned and is one of the oldest and well-established media organisations in Kurdistan. Details have yet to emerge as to the reasons for the resignation, nevertheless, Awena newspaper has reported, "it is likely that his resignation is due to the current situation in Kurdistan Region".

Meanwhile on Sunday an extraordinary session in Kurdistan region parliament ended when the opposition parties walked out of the session. Shekh Jaffar Mustafa, Peshmerga Minister was called for questioning about the recent events in Kurdistan including shooting protesters and using Peshmerga forces as a tool in the hands of the political parties. The oppositions said: "we have left parliament because the speaker have put forward a vote of confidence in the mix and this was not necessary and uncalled for." 

The opposition were hoping that they could grill the minister about the events after 17 February, and were disappointed saying, the minister did not answer their questions. Goran MPs quizzed the minister and read out a list of laws and regulations that he has violated.  One of which, using Peshmerga forces as a tool for the political parties. One MP also accused him of acting contrary to the Iraqi constitution for politicising his position and using his forces to suppress Iraqi citizens. According to article 70 of Kurdish parliamentary code, the questioning can end if the speaker chooses to ask for a vote of confidence and unsurprisingly the speakers did so, and further proving his partisan and cynical approach to the business of the council. 

PUK, KDP and other MPs part of the coalition the minister the confidence to continue as minister with 68 votes and kept the minster while under his watch, nine protesters were shot and over 200 were injured. MPs voting in his support can only be construed by the public as support for violence used against the protesters, because it is clear that he has played a large part in the violence directly or indirectly as it all happened under his watch. 

Kurdistan Region incumbent MPs have once again proved that they have no conscience and only think about party and self interest. So far there have been no dissenting voices among the ruling parties MPs and have revealed that their, loyalties lie with party political interest and not with the general public in Kurdistan.  The protests continue and many more protesters have been arrested while President Barzani has issues a statement asking all sides to engage in dialogue in order to calm the situation down. The main opposition group, Goran has showed readiness to open dialogue but the official spokes person, Muhammad Rahim Tofiq, has told Lvinpress that the opposition would only take part in dialogue if it's within the framework of the opposition projects. And finally the opposition have refused to take part in today's parliamentary session because they say that parliament need to discuss the current situation in Kurdistan and work on protesters demands.

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