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Iraqi Kurdish corruption, human rights media report 5 to 20 Nov 07

BBC Monitoring

Iraqi Kurdish press monitored between 5 and 20 November included reporting, but was not limited to, about a new media bill currently being discussed by the Kurdistan Region parliament. Coverage of corruption and human rights-related issues continues to be overshadowed by the ongoing Turkish-Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) crisis.

Media A delegation from an international NGO, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), has visited Iraqi Kurdistan to "investigate violations committed against journalists", the Kurdistan Islamic Union-owned Yekgirtu weekly reported on 11 November.

The report said the delegation had met Kurdish officials and journalists and had submitted a letter to the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) on their concerns about the media climate. The delegation is expected to publish a detailed report on the visit in early 2008.

One of the members of the delegation, CPJ's Middle East senior programme coordinator, Joel Campagna, said: "Dangerous abuses are committed against some journalists in Kurdistan. Some journalists have been beaten for writing critical articles about the government. The abuses were not reported to the courts in any of these cases."

Campagna also pointed out the emergence of an independent Kurdish press, saying: Big changes have occurred in [the] Kurdistan [Region] after the [1991] uprising [against the then Iraqi government].The media have immensely developed. In the past seven years, independent newspapers emerged that criticise officials, investigate and follow up on corruption issues and want t! o act as a watchdog on the government."

Another member of the delegation, CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahon, welcomed one clause in the media bill currently under consideration by the Kurdistan Region parliament, but was concerned about another.

He said: "We very much welcome the clause in the bill that says journalists should not be imprisoned. However, we have reservations on Article 10 of the bill which says 'journalists will have to pay approximately 2m-dinar (approximately 789 pounds) fines for publishing articles that disturbs the security'. I think this article is written in vague language and is open to various interpretations. This will hamper journalists' work."

Meanwhile, the editor of independent Awene weekly, Asos Hardi, also voiced his concerns about the media bill. Hardi said that according to media reports, the bill included a clause to the effect that only members of the Kurdistan Journalists' Syndicate would be entitled to publish newspa! pers. Referring to the authoritarian nature of Saddam Husayn's Ba'th p arty, Hardi said that this was a Ba'thi mentality, adding that "we all know that the [Kurdistan] Journalists' Syndicate is not the outcome of journalists' efforts, but above all is born from the parties' agreement. [The former journalists' unions] merged through the parties' decision."

Hardi also complained that journalists who were not members of the syndicate were not consulted about the bill.

Critique of the government In an article published on 14 November in Rozhnama daily of former Patriotic Union of Kurdistan deputy leader Nawshirwan Mustafa's Wisha Company, writer Pishko Nakam said corruption "existed on a large scale in Kurdistan" because of "lack of measures and laws".

Nakam referred in particular to two recent media reports in the article. The first one, according to a report published by Rozhnama a company brought 5,000 expired blood bags from abroad to a hospital in Arbil. The company's argument was that the labels on the bags were "changed in Turkey". Nakam wrote: "If it was not found out that those labels were changed and the blood was given to unfortunate patients needing it, what would have happened?"

He went on to say: "Has the Health Ministry enquired as to whether that company was a professional one and can provide the Kurdistan Region with blood from abroad?" Nakam added that in a democratic system, the parliament would have played an active role and would have held the government accountable for an action that could have taken 5,000 lives.

The second case highlighted in Nakam's article was a report published by independent Hawlati newspaper saying that a sum of 200bn dinars (approximately 79m pounds) sent from! Baghdad to the Kurdistan Region's Ministry of Social Affairs went missing. The report said the fund was of a project providing financial support for the poor through the said ministry.

The report said the fund was lost between the KRG's Ministry of Social Affairs, the Ministry of Finance and the Region's Ministry for Social Affairs. Nakam wrote: "What can the poor people of Kurdistan expect from a government that is very weak administratively and one in which corruption is so rife that it does not know how such a large amount of money went missing."

Source: As listed 5 Nov 07



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