While many of us are busy with the case of the murdered fellow journalist, Kawa Garmiyani, we are overlooking something as important as that case: The right of journalists, and the people of Kurdistan, to information.
This is now a law.
At the time it was signed into law in July last year, the legislation did not get much attention. It was overshadowed by news of the extension of the Kurdish president’s term in office and a bottle-throwing incident in parliament.
Unless it has been delayed, the legislation should be in effect this week, because it states that it will become law 90 days after publication in the official gazette.
One of the biggest complaints that public officials and other people have about Kurdish journalists is that they lack professionalism and accuracy.
But at a time when there is no law to regulate the work of the media, many people would say that the government has no right to blame journalists, because they themselves are not doing their part, which is to provide information.
Today, that condition is not there. There is a very modern legislation in place, but no serious preparation has been made for it, neither by the government or the media.
The best way ahead for the government, political parties and other public bodies is to provide a steady flow of information to the public and media. This is the best defense.
Meanwhile, the information in the hands of the government officials can be split into three categories.
First, there is information that is not sensitive and is needed by the public. No one is harmed if it released.
Then there is information regarded as “sensitive” by some. This is normally information held back for reasons of either corruption or misuse of power. Someone in power would get hurt if it is published.
The third category is information deemed secret for reasons of national security.
The law clearly provides guidelines for separating the various categories of information.
The ball is now largely in the court of the media. The journalists of today should feel fortunate for the opportunity to promote a culture of transparency in Kurdistan. They are, at the same time, under a huge responsibility to set the right foundations.
Every serious media outlet should have a right to information department whose job is to request information from the government, parties and other public bodies, and which has a strong legal team that takes legal action whenever such information is refused.
Kawa Garmiyani was probably killed because he tried to obtain “sensitive” information. The best way for all of us to honor his memory and prevent a reoccurrence of similar crimes is to work on creating a new culture of information.