The escalation of challenges to press freedom in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, including arbitrary arrests, has been raised by the US Consulate General in Erbil (Hewlêr).

The United States Consulate General in Erbil (Hewlêr) has raised concerns about escalating challenges to press freedom in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. These concerns include arbitrary detentions, searches of equipment without warrants, and the inadequate implementation of key laws such as the Press Law and the Law on Access to Information.

Consul General Mark Stroh shared these concerns following a key meeting with journalists representing various independent media outlets in the Kurdistan Region. The aim of the dialogue was to gain insight into the experiences, work and obstacles faced by independent media professionals working in the region.

After the meeting, Consul General Stroh praised the journalists for their unwavering commitment to impartial reporting and highlighted the deteriorating state of press freedom in the Kurdistan Region, a matter of growing international concern.

The Kurdistan Region of Iraq has come under intense scrutiny for its press freedom record in recent years. The region has seen a number of high-profile cases of journalists and activists sentenced to harsh prison terms after trials often described by international organisations as “grossly unfair”.

According to Reporters Without Borders (RSF), journalists critical of the Kurdistan Regional Government in the region have been accused of espionage and subsequently imprisoned. RSF data shows around 20 arrests of journalists since the beginning of 2023, signalling a worrying increase in press freedom violations in Iraqi Kurdistan.

RSF also expressed deep concern about the arbitrary arrests of several journalists and the extension of the prison sentence of freelance journalist Sherwan Sherwani in August.