Tuesday, January 18, 2011

KDP drops lawsuits against newspapers

Dohuk, Jan. 17 (AKnews) - One of the major ruling parties of Kurdistan Region, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) led by regional president Massoud Barzani, has dropped several lawsuits against newspapers and writers it accused of defamation. The move was welcomed by the media organizations.Nechirvan Barzani1

The issue of the lawsuits against newspapers and writers goes back to July 2010 after the Rozhname newspaper, the mouthpiece of an opposition group Gorran, accused the KDP and its ally Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) led by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, of profiteering from smuggling oil into Iran.

Following a fuss between the ruling parties and Gorran, KDP filed an unprecedented lawsuit against Rozhname demanding 1 billion Iraqi Dinars in damages, (about US$800,000) on charges of defamation.

Hawlati and Awene, two other newspapers claiming to be independent were also among those the KDP raised claims against on charges "defamation" in one of Erbil courts. The KDP demanded damages of 500 million Iraqi Dinars from each newspaper.

KDP leader's deputy Nechirvan Barzani said in an interview with the local newspaper Rudaw's Monday issue that his party had decided to withdraw all lawsuits against the newspapers in Kurdistan as a "show of goodwill"

The withdrawal of lawsuits has been widely welcomed by the media organizations, in particular the independent media, and journalists centers.

"We believe that what happened is a very positive step to create bridges of understanding and trust between free media and journalists on the one hand, and the political parties on the other." Rahman Gharib, coordinator of the Metro Center to Defend Journalists in the Kurdistan, told AKnews.

Metro is an independent organization dedicated to  defending journalists and freedom of the press in the Kurdistan region.

Hadi Jallo Merei, of the Press Freedom Center in Iraq, says the decision to drop the lawsuits  in the Kurdistan is welcomed in the media in Baghdad and other Iraqi cities as well, calling at the same time for strengthening press freedom with a set of "decisions and actions" without elaborating.

This shows that there is good understanding of the fact that the media have the right to access to information, according to Merei.

The implications of the move by the KDP will be quite positive on the situation of the press in the Kurdistan region, Merei believes. He says the this signals a transition in the regional authorities concept of the role of journalists, so "this will facilitate the work of journalists."

Reported by Khudr Khallat, edited by Raber Y. Aziz