RSF: Criminal raid prevents Kurdistan’s
first independent TV station from covering
February 22, 2011
Reporters Without Borders is outraged by the
destructive attack that 50 masked gunmen carried out
at 2:30 a.m. on 20 February on the headquarters of
the Kurdish Nalia Radio and Television (NRT) in the
compound known as “German Village” in Sulaimaniyah,
in northern Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan region, to
prevent it from continuing to cover unrest in the
After opening fire on NRT’s guards, wounding one of
them, the gunmen smashed all the broadcasting
equipment and then
set fire to the
building. Launched on 17 February by the company
Nalia, it was Iraqi Kurdistan’s first independent
satellite TV station. It had existed for 72 hours
and had provided a total of just 17 hours of
broadcasting when the attack took place.
In this short space of time, it had distinguished
itself by its live coverage of the protests against
the Kurdistan Regional Government that had erupted
on 17 February and it had broadcast footage of
police firing on
and the resulting bloodshed. NRT’s executive had
been receiving threats since the day it was
“This criminal attack is appalling and
unacceptable,” Reporters Without Borders said. “It
was carried out by the enemies of freedom of
expression in a democratic Iraqi Kurdistan. This
region needs fully independent media that dare to
show the reality that its dominant political forces
have been trying to mask for years.”
The press freedom organization added: “We call on
the competent authorities to investigate this crime
in order to identify these who were behind it and
bring them to justice. The authorities must also
accept that they have a duty to guarantee the safety
Kurdish Security forces inspect a destroyed
television station in Sulaimaniyah, Kurdistan region
of Iraq, Sunday, Feb. 20, 2011. Gunmen burst into a
Kurdish television station in northern Iraq on
Sunday, shooting up the equipment and setting fire
to the building, possibly in retaliation for footage
they aired earlier in the week of a deadly protest,
station officials said. Photo AP
Twana Osman told Reporters Without Borders: “We had
already received threatening messages and phone
calls to get us to stop covering the incidents that
have been accompanying the protests in Sulaimaniyah.
We spoke to Prime Minister Barham Salih and other
told us that nothing would happen to us. But
everything was destroyed. All the technical
equipment was torched and the building cannot be
used. The damage is put at 9 million dollars.
“We had broadcast just 17 hours of programming. Our
coverage was neutral. Thousands of viewers had
watched us, both in Kurdistan and in the diaspora.
The parties that control politics in the region
could not stand our new way of covering the news.”
Osman said the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG)
and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), one of
the two main ruling parties, were clearly to blame.
“The KRG and PUK, as the dominant party in
Sulaimaniyah, are responsible for this crime and
will continue to be until the instigators are
arrested,” he said. “Not only NRT but all of
Kurdistan’s civil society were targeted by this
attack, which was an attempt to conceal the truth
from the public, to keep the public in ignorance and
to gag independent media.”
The attack on NRT is far from being isolated.
Reporters Without Borders has registered many
attacks and threats against journalists since the
start of the protests in Iraqi Kurdistan on 17
* 21 February
- Ageed Saleem, an NRT reporter in Duhok, said he
was threatened by a leading member of the Kurdistan
Democratic Party (KDP), the other main party in the
* 20 February
- Bryar Namiq, a reporter for Kurdish News Network (KNN),
was badly injured by police and members of the
Asayish (intelligence service).
- KURDIU reporter Balen Othman was attacked and his
camera was destroyed.
- Goran Othman, a journalist with the Islamic Group
news website, was attacked.
- Shaswar Mama, an NRT reporter in Raniya, was
accosted by members of the security forces.
- KURDIU reporter Mukhlis Ahmed was attacked in
Following its coverage of the previous day’s events
in Sulaimaniyah, staff at the newspaper Hawlati
received a threatening phone call saying they should
evacuate their Erbil office.
- Police prevented many journalists from covering
protests at the University of Sulaimaniyah.
- Police beat Hawlati reporter Ara Ibrahim using
- Police attacked a KNN TV crew.
- Aras Muhammad, the head of Arasta magazine and
Sound Radio, was injured by members of the Asayish.
- Hardi Salami, a reporter for the satellite TV
station Gali Kurdistani, sustained a leg injury.
- Payam reporter Wrya Ahmed sustained injuries to
the hands and legs when he was attacked by police.
The Sulaimaniyah security committee also demanded
university academic and intellectual Dr. Faruq
Rafeeq’s arrest after he said, while taking part in
a demonstration in Sulaimaniyah on 17 February:
“Massoud Barzani, the president of the Kurdistan
Democratic Party, should apologize for the incidents
and deaths caused by members of his party. Those who
fired the fatal shots and those who gave them their
orders should be arrested and brought to justice.
And finally, the Peshmergas [armed fighters] should
leave the city.”
* 18 February
- Lutfi Doski, a Duhok-based KNN reporter, was
prevented from filming the premises of the Gorran
party in Duhok.
- An NRT team was prevented from filming
- Reporters for the newspaper Chatr were forced to
delete the photos they had taken of the
- Reporters for the newspaper Hawlati were prevented
from filming incidents taking place in Sulaimaniyah.
* 17 February
- Radio Gorran was prevented from broadcasting.
- Police prevented KNN reporters from filming the
- Shwan Muhammad, the editor of the newspaper Awene,
was insulted by Peshmergas.
- Rahman Gharib, the head of the press freedom
organization METRO and a reporter for Sumariya News,
- KNN programme director Namo Namiq was detained for
- Radio Nawa reporter Bilal Muhammad was attacked
and prevented from covering the incidents.
- Saman Majed and Bwar Jalal, reporters for the
PUK’s satellite TV station Gali Kurdistan, were
- Sherko Salayi, a reporter for CNN in Arabic, was
- Hemin Abdul Latif, reporter for the Destur news
website, was badly injured while photographing
demonstrators attacking the local headquarters of
- The Erbil headquarters of the KNN TV and radio
station were set on fire.
- Ari Muhammad, a photographer with the Metrography
agency, was injured.
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