Two international organizations expressed, on Wednesday, their concern about the increasing curtailment of freedom of expression in the Kurdistan region.
This came in a joint report issued by the United Nations Human Rights Office and the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq "UNAMI", published by the latter's website.
The report said: "There is a disturbing pattern observed between March 2020 and April 2021 in Kurdistan, whereby people who exercise their legal right to report or criticize the public authorities in the region are targeted."
He added, "Freedom of expression in the Kurdistan region of Iraq has been increasingly curtailed over the past year, as critics of public authorities have not only been exposed to the risk of intimidation, restrictions on their movements, and arbitrary arrests but some have also been accused of defamation, while others have recently been tried under national security laws."
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, said, according to the report, that "while recognizing that the authorities of the Kurdistan region face challenges ... locally, regionally and internationally, the main findings of this report are of great concern."
Bachelet criticized "the behavior of the security services in the region, the selective application of laws, and the failure to comply with the relevant laws, procedures and international standards for human rights."
For her part, the head of the "UNAMI" mission, Jeanine Hennis Blasshardt, said, according to the report, that "transparency, accountability, and openness to interrogation are vital to any healthy democracy."
The report urges "the Kurdistan region authorities to take immediate steps to provide full protection for the right to freedom of expression and end the harassment, intimidation and retaliation against journalists, human rights defenders and activists."
Last year, the authorities in Kurdistan arrested 7 activists and journalists for organizing protests, and 5 of them were sentenced last February to 6 years in prison for “attempting to destabilize the security and stability of the region,” while the court decided to release a journalist and an activist due to insufficient evidence.