Freedom of Expression Between the Authority and the Media

September 26, 2012

Last week, Adnan Osman, a Kurdish MP from the Change Movement (Gorran), wrote an article about the bad relationship between the press and the parliament in the Kurdistan Region.

He asked us journalists to uproot the “freedom of expression tree” that I received as a media award in London earlier this year and decided to plant it in the garden at parliament as a reminder of the importance of freedom of the press and the need to have a good, healthy environment for the media.

Osman’s complaint was about the mistreatment of journalists in parliament, and he correctly laid out a set of recommendations to involve journalists in parliament’s public outreach which is the normal position of a journalist in any democracy.

But the problem is not isolated to parliament alone. The unhealthy relationship or the hostile attitude towards the journalist in Iraqi Kurdistan stems from the secretive nature of how the political parties that rule Kurdistan conduct their affairs.

In any part of the modern democratic world, if a leader or president leaves the country, the press is fully informed and a press group, which includes media from all sides, independent and partisan, accompanies the president.

In our case, nobody knows why the president or prime minister visits a foreign country or how long they plan to stay. In some cases, it’s unclear whether they have returned or if they ever left at all. Sometimes, it’s only after their return that people find out they were abroad.

This culture of secrecy is the main reason for not wanting to pass any legislation that is in line with the standards of the free world that we say we are part of. So far, there is a lot of talk about the free press in the region, but in reality very little is being done in this respect.

Stations have been burnt down; journalists have been beaten up and killed. To this day, not a single case has been brought to justice or been convincingly settled. This is a time when the majority of editors of the independent media have several cases against them in the courts.

The other problem of not having a healthy environment for the press is the attitude of “you are either with us or against us.” Authorities of the region have this attitude towards the media. When a media outlet is with them, it is used as a propaganda tool. If it is against them, it is boycotted. In both cases, good and healthy journalism is aborted. Boycotted media are forced to resort to twisted means of getting information and reporting it.

This is at least my 10th article about the need for a healthy relationship between the authorities and the media. When I received the award in London, I spoke about the dangerous draft legislations about media and information that were in parliament.

But the real issue lies in the fact that we are gradually heading in the direction of Mubarak’s Egypt — a corrupt ruling elite that is isolated from the non-governmental media and which in turn is chaotic and often dragged to court for various reasons.

This was all happening while underground social media was growing on the web and later translated into what happened in Tahrir Square. When this happens, the only thing that will remain is the tree in parliament’s garden.

    follow me
    mail me