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Stockholm - Skyline International today calls on the Iraqi Kurdistan authorities to stop muzzling dissents and violating the right to freedom of opinion and expression in conjunction with widespread protests.

In a press release, the Stockholm-based international foundation “Skyline” stated that it had compiled testimonies indicating that the Iraqi Kurdistan authorities have slowed down internet service and blocked social media pages in the areas they control.

Skyline indicates that this happened after security forces stormed Nalia Media Corporation headquarters in Sulaymaniyah, including T.V. stations and other media institutions, yesterday, Monday. 

This raid was carried out under the pretext of implementing the Kurdish Ministry of Culture’s decision to suspend the work of Nalia’s T.V. channels, arrest its employees, and confiscate its equipment due to covering the protests taking place in Sulaymaniyah and the burning of the ruling political parties’ offices by angry protesters.

Later, the Ministry of Culture in the Kurdistan Regional Government (K.R.G.) announced that it had suspended broadcasting the (N.R.T.) channel for a week, claiming that it did not comply with the instructions of organizing the audiovisual media sector. 

In an administrative order, the Ministry of Culture stated that “because of the (N.R.T.) satellite channel’s non-compliance with the instructions for organizing the audiovisual sector and its irresponsible behavior at this time, we decided to stop the channel’s broadcast for a week.”

In this context, Skyline rejects all forms of restrictions on the media, which constitute a flagrant violation of freedom of expression and contravene the Iraqi constitution and international conventions.

Skyline also stresses that the K.R.G. should immediately reserve its measures that restrict freedoms. These measures even contradict Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, which stipulates that “Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression.” This right shall include the freedom to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice regardless of borders.

Skyline further warns that restrictions should not be used to suppress or withhold information of legitimate public interest that does not harm national security or to prosecute journalists or restrict their work because of covering such news. 

Skyline International concludes its statement by stressing that Kurdistan authorities are obliged to protect free speech, freedom of the press, and media following international conventions and charters, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. This covenant affirms individuals’ right to seek freely, receive, and present information and ideas through various mediums, including the Internet and media channels.