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 The Kurdish Association of Journalists (KAJ) Call for release of Kurdish writer

 Source : IRIN: UN humanitarian news and information service
  Kurd Net does not take credit for and is not responsible for the content of news information on this page


The Kurdish Association of Journalists (KAJ) Call for release of Kurdish writer 12.1.2006
UN humanitarian news and information service

BAGHDAD, 12 Jan 2006 (IRIN) - The Kurdish Association of Journalists (KAJ) has continued to express concern over the imprisonment of a writer accused of committing libel against the Kurdish authorities in Kurdistan (northern Iraq) and sentenced last month to 30 years in jail.

“The jail term is the longest ever heard of by our association and greatly affects our work as journalists and editors by making it difficult to write freely,” said KAJ spokesman Dirar Hayet.

Kamal Qadir, an Austrian citizen of Kurdish origin, was found guilty on 19 December for libelling the president of the Kurdistan Regional Government in northern Iraq, Massoud Barzani, in articles posted on the Internet.

Dr Kamal Said Qadir, Austrian citizen, an international legal expert, writer and human rights activist
Photo: DIHA

Officials defended the move, saying that press freedom was respected in the Kurdish north, but that Qadir had been punished for attempting to tarnish the image of the president.

“Kurdistan has been the most democratic place in Iraq, and we can’t blame it for lost freedoms,” said a senior Kurdish official, Ahmed Kindar. He went on to call Qadir’s crimes “an exceptional case of defamation against the government.”

According to a statement issued by Kurdish authorities, "The Kurdish regional government affirms that the principles of human rights and freedom of expression continue to be respected, promoted and guaranteed for all persons throughout the region of Kurdistan."

Press freedoms watchdog Reporters without Borders (RWB), however, has disputed this claim, saying that the stiff sentence represented a violation of basic press freedoms.

“We find it hard to believe that Iraq's Kurdish authorities can say this after just sentencing a lawyer to 30 years in prison for defamation,” the organisation noted in a statement.

“Only extremely repressive countries have recourse to such heavy sentences for so-called crimes of opinion."

RWB went on to appeal to the Kurdish government for the release of Qadir and a review of his case.

According to Hayet, Kurdish journalists are regularly subject to pressure from the government and often prevented from publishing certain material.

“It’s easy to speak about freedom and democracy, but in practice it’s very different, and this case shows the reality,” he said. “We call on all journalistic organisations worldwide to intervene in this case and help change the laws here.”

Hayet added: “We ask the Kurdish government to review its sentencing of the journalist and prove the existence of freedom in Kurdistan ( northern Iraq)”

IRIN: UN humanitarian news and information service



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