Violations Against Iraqi Media Channels’ Headquarters During The Demonstrations

2019-11-12 12:08


Violations Against Iraqi Media Channels’ Headquarters During The Demonstrations

Radio and television stations are objects of a civilian nature and in this capacity are generally protected. Since the twentieth century, it has been stated in the International Humanitarian Law and reaffirmed in the 1977 Protocol and the Statute of the International Criminal Court, that civilian objects are not to be attacked. The dual obligation provided for in article 48 of Protocol I results in the fact that civilian objects, such as the civilian population, benefit from general protection, the provisions of which are laid down in article 52 of Protocol I. 

Hence, all equipment and media facilities that are not used for military purposes and do not meet the requirements of Article 52, paragraph 2, are included under the label of civilian objects that "shall not be the object of attack or of deterrence."

According to Article 52 of Protocol I, the use of propaganda as a sole reason to justify an attack on the media remains unacceptable; and the media cannot be considered a legitimate target simply because it broadcasts propaganda even though this activity may be seen by some as political support for counter-parties. And although Amnesty International believes that some may benefit from the creation of disturbances in the official propaganda which helps to undermine the population’s morale, it still finds that this is no justification for attacking civilian objects, including media channels.

In light of the above, the Journalist Support Committee in Geneva expresses its deep concern of the dangerous phenomenon that emerged during the unrest in Iraq since October 1, 2019, to this day, in which headquarters of media institutions are being attacked. And over this extended period of time, the Committee has monitored and documented a series of attacks that affected a number of Iraqi channels.

Based on reports issued by Iraqi human rights organizations and the media circulation in Iraq, the Committee monitored the following Violations:

October 4, 2019:

  1. Al-Ahwar TV’s headquarters in Al-Nasiriyah governorate was burned by a group of protesters.

October 5, 2019:

  1. Attack on the local Dijlah TV station in Baghdad. The channel was closed until it resumed broadcasting from the Jordanian capital Amman about two weeks after the incident.
  2. Unidentified individuals stormed NRT Arabic and its headquarters in the Kurdistan region of Iraq and destroyed the equipment, which led to the temporarily suspension of broadcasting. The unidentified individuals also confiscated the employees’ phones.
  3. The headquarters of the Saudi TV channel Al Arabia in Baghdad was subject to the acts of breaking and entering and sabotage.
  4. Violent assault on the Saudi news channel Al-Hadath in Baghdad by unidentified gunmen.
  5. Al-Ghad’s office in Baghdad, that broadcasts from London, was stormed into, which resulted in injuring its correspondent.
  6. Storming of Al-Nahrain TV building, which led to expelling its employees, destroying its equipment, and stopping its broadcast until October 21.
  7. Anonymous threats to "Hona Baghdad" and "Al-Rasheed" channels.

October 6, 2019:

  1. The headquarters of "Al-Furat" satellite channel was bombed by a drone that landed in the channel’s backyard in Al-Karrada, central Baghdad. As a result, one of the employees was injured and a number of the channel’s cars and press equipment were damaged.

October 25, 2019:

  1. An unidentified group burned the headquarters of Al-Furrat Radio in the Diwaniyah governorate.
  2. Al-Amal Radio’s office was burned in Diwaniyah governorate.
  3. Unidentified individuals burned Al Amer Radio’s office in Maysan governorate.
  4. The headquarters of Zahrat Al-Furat radio station was burned by unidentified individuals in Diwaniyah governorate.

October 26, 2019:

  1. Troops of the Kurdistan Region stormed the building of the NRT channel. 
  2. A group of civilians stormed Al-Diyar Channel building in Baghdad and broke some equipment.

October 27, 2019:

  1. The National Security Forces stormed the headquarters of Al Jeel Al Jadeed Radio station in Karbala on the pretext of not having a license to broadcast and stopped them

November 4, 2019:

  1. An unidentified organized group attacks the Afaq channel’s headquarters.
  2. A Systematic attack on the Iraqi Information Network headquarters and then burning it down.

The Journalist Support Committee expresses its deep concern and regret over the horrific scenes of abuse that appear to be systematic and sometimes even planned in advance. The Committee strongly condemns any media policies and editorial paths followed by some non-Iraqi channels meddling in the Iraqi internal affairs that clearly aim to spread hate and tacitly steer the audience towards violence as a means of silencing the media. The Committee also calls on all Iraqi media institutions to exercise caution and accuracy in their media policies and in the content of their broadcasts with regard to not evoking violence or counter-violence.

The Committee stresses its condemnation of such attacks on the headquarters of Iraqi channels since it would prevent the circulation of information and the communication of the reality of what is happening on the ground to the Iraqi people and the world. The Committee also urges the security services to provide the necessary protection for media headquarters and media personnel and emphasizes the need to immediately initiate investigations. The Committee does not exclude any protesting group from its call to respect laws and international conventions that obligate everyone to respect media institutions, protect them and deters from vocalizing any hate speech towards those channels or their employees.

The Journalist Support Committee follows the events of Iraq with great attention and calls on all media and journalists to cooperate with them as part of their endeavour to protect media and press work and ensure its freedom and safety.

Journalist Support Committee - Switzerland
12 November 2019