Iraq’s northern enclave of Kurdistan is a relative haven of peace and stability, but its independent journalists are being challenged by the political establishment who fear allowing the public to hear the truth as to what goes on in government. About 60 Kurdish journalists have been killed, threatened or physically attacked during the first half of 2008 for their outspoken advocacy for printing the truth. Last month Soran Mamahama, a writer for Livin magazine was gunned down for exposing corruption about prostitution rings. Hemen Mamand, a young radio reporter puts it bluntly when saying, “In Kurdistan there is no freedom for journalists,…we don’t know who killed him, but we do know that the government didn’t care.”
The Committee to Protect Journalists(CPJ) and Amnesty International have denounced these attacks on journalists and want the world to know what is going on in an Iraq that supposedly is a new democracy. Joel Campagna, of CPJ says “the recent incidents have really stripped off the veneer and reveal it’s not much different(in Kurdistan) than other parts of Iraq.”
Part of the problem is the lack of a strong opposition party in Kurdistan which leaves journalists in the role of being “the opposition.” Naturally, the Kurdish government relies on old and true ways of thinking by arguing journalists are simply smearing officials. Of course, what is one to do about reporting on the lives of corrupt government officials when the penalty is an $8,400 fine for “insulting” a government official?