Press, police and politicians talk about press safety

Representatives of police and security police (assaish), editors in chief and politicians from all over Kurdistan talked together about improving the safety situation for the Kurdish press during the conference 'Safety for journalists is safety for all'. The conference was organised by IMCK and took place on Thursday April 21, 2011 in the Noble Hotel in Erbil.

,,Kurdistan is at a cross roads'', said Frank Smyth, the journalist security coordinator of CPJ (the Committee to Protect Journalists in Washington) during the conference. ,,I can see the growing pains in the relation between police and press. The Kurds have to make sure that the space for the press grows as Kurdish democracy grows''.

The CPJ coordinator was an important guest in the conference, which was opened by the KRG minister of Culture, Kawa Mahmoud, who also spoke of the role journalists play in a democracy.

Smyth said at the end of the conference to be impressed by the way the different representatives, who were from different sides in the society, discussed the subject, which is very actual in Kurdistan, with more then 150 incidents involving journalists since the protests in Suleymaniya started on February 17. ,,They discussed the problems togethers, in stead of just speaking to each other''.

After naming the problems and their background, the particpants to the conference were divided over three working groups. One group spoke about a possible press council, or a committee to ensure the safety of journalists, another decided that it would be wise to create some sort of a badge for press to be worn during demonstrations, and the last found a number of 'Kurdish solutions' to the problem. It suggested a commission from the Ministries of Internal Affairs and Justice which can react to complaints about violence against the press. They also suggested a compensation scheme for journalists who have become the victim of violence by authorities, and they adviced to make special postcards with a big 'NO to violence against the press'.

The conference is the finale of a project that IMCK conducted to improve the relations between press, police and politicians in Kurdistan, which was funded by the American Regional Reconstruction Team (RRT) and the Open Society Institute. IMCK will work on the recommendations from the conference and will present ideas to help implement them in some way.


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