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2.4. Journalists, media workers and human rights activists

Last updated: January 2021

This profile refers to journalists, media workers, and human rights activists. For guidance on political opposition activists, see the profile Political opposition activists and protesters.

COI summary

[Targeting, 1.11, 1.12; Actors of protection, 8.3; Protesters, 3.1.5, 3.1.6]

Iraq is regarded as one of the world’s most dangerous countries for journalists.

Journalists targeted in Iraq are particularly those who engage in critical reporting on controversial political or other sensitive issues (e.g. corruption, abuse of authority, weak government capacity, protests) or are seen as criticising government officials. According to relevant sources, media workers, journalists and human rights activists who are particularly critical of PMU or militias have been targeted for their work. The attacks included intimidation, ill-treatment, abductions, arbitrary arrests, and killings. The perpetrators are not always clearly identifiable, however attacks in the context of protests have been attributed to both governmental agencies and PMU. It has also been reported that television stations were raided and live coverage from the protests was prohibited.

Media workers and journalists may also be targeted by militant opposition groups including ISIL. Their murders go unpunished and investigations generally yield no results.

In the areas under the central government of Iraq, there are reports of ill-treatment of human rights activists, such as women human rights defenders, LGBTIQ activists, etc. Those who are working on issues of enforced disappearances have reportedly faced intimidation and reprisal, such as arbitrary arrests, ill-treatment, death threats and killings.

In the KRI, human rights activists, media workers and journalists face frequent harassment, this especially affects Yazidi activists. They may be subject to arbitrary arrests, assault, intimidation, death threats and killings. Investigations into killings have not been carried out with due diligence in the past and there has been little to no accountability in recent years.

Despite legal protections, which prohibits imprisonment, harassment, or physical abuse of reporters, journalists critical to the KRG leadership have claimed harassment by the authorities.

Risk analysis

The acts to which individuals under this profile could be exposed are of such severe nature that they would amount to persecution (e.g. killings, arbitrary arrest, detention, ill-treatment, kidnapping).

Not all individuals under this profile would face the level of risk required to establish a well-founded fear of persecution. The individual assessment of whether or not there is a reasonable degree of likelihood for the applicant to face persecution should take into account risk-impacting circumstances, such as: nature of activities (topic they report on), political and/or sectarian background of the individual, gender, visibility, being known to the authorities, etc.

Nexus to a reason for persecution

Available information indicates that persecution of this profile is for reasons of (imputed) political opinion.