On Saturday, a network of dozens of Iraqi lawyers issued a protest note against restrictions on freedom of expression and publication, accusing the country’s highest judicial authority of “legal violations” in connection with arrest warrants for Iraqi journalists and citizens.
The “Network of Volunteer Lawyers to Defend Freedom of Expression” accused Iraqi institutions, including the judiciary, of “issuing arrest, detention and dismissal orders against Iraqi journalists and citizens,” noting that these orders “confiscate freedom of expression.” guaranteed by Iraq. constitutions and international human rights standards.
In a statement posted on its Facebook page, the network, which includes 130 lawyers, condemned any violation of the rule of law and refused to deal with dissenting issues outside the legal framework, according to the statement.
Al-Shabaka’s general coordinator, Dilovan Berwari, told Al-Hurra that the protest note came in response to “violations of press freedom by the High Judicial Council and the Media Authority”.
Berwari explained that the case of the Iraqi Media Network, related to the “Neutral” program, presented by Saadoun Mohsen Damad and his guest Sarmad Al-Taei, is an important turning point in relation to freedoms in Iraq, and represents the straw who broke the camel ‘s back.
The judiciary accused journalist Sarmad Al-Taei of “insulting” the judiciary, following his intervention in a talk show broadcast on Al-Iraqiya channel last week, and the intervention provoked angry political reactions, which led to the issuance of an arrest warrant. order against him.
In a letter to Al-Iraqiya television, the head of the Supreme Judicial Council, Faeq Zeidan, sharply criticized the presenter of the “Neutral” program, accusing him and the guests of the program of “insulting” the judiciary.
Iraq .. “Freedom of Expression” interacts and “recruitment” memoranda in defense of the judiciary
The Council reminded the “involved in this crime” the procedures “based on the Criminal Code no. 111 of 1969 “, according to the” explanation “of his media center.
In its memorandum on Saturday, the Bar Association opposed the “resort of the High Judicial Council”, the highest judicial authority in the country, “illegal methods in dealing with issues of the press and freedom of expression”.
She said the council had committed violations embodied in “arbitrary allegations not proven by legal means”, and the charges were raised without a “fundamental and transparent investigation”.
A spokesman for the High Judicial Council did not respond to Al-Hurra’s calls for comment.
The general coordinator of the “Network of Voluntary Advocates for the Protection of Freedom of Expression”, Dilovan Berwari, stressed that the “Al-Taie” case is not an individual case, as the judiciary within three weeks issued three arrest warrants against media professionals.
Berwari noted the fear of continuing violations of freedom of expression in Iraq, especially since the judiciary has become “like everything in Iraq, representing a kind of political quota, used by influential people and armed militias, to “become a political tool to suppress freedoms,” he said.
And on Tuesday, the High Judicial Council announced the summoning of media professionals and lawyers, accusing them of “spreading lies and deliberately changing constitutional and legal concepts” and “working” through social media sites and unregistered YouTube channels. that have connections inside and outside Iraq. “
In New York, the Committee to Protect Journalists called on “Iraqi authorities to stop the harassment of journalists Sarmad Al-Tai and Saadoun Damad, and to ensure their ability to work freely and safely.”
“Iraqi authorities should immediately stop harassing journalists Sarmad Al-Taie and Saadoun Damad. Journalists should not face arrests and possible criminal charges because of their political comments,” said Sherif Mansour, the committee’s program coordinator. for the Middle East and North Africa. Instead of threatening journalists with detention, the authorities should work to protect journalists from threats and intimidation.
On June 3, hundreds of Iraqi intellectuals, civil activists, and academic writers signed a statement denouncing the falling ceiling of civil liberties in Iraq, noting the rise in arrest warrants issued against activists, writers, media professionals, and opinion leaders. .
In a statement entitled “In defense of freedom of expression”, they referred to “violations” affecting the field of civil liberties, based on “laws adopted during the previous totalitarian regime”.
Iraq ranks 163rd out of 180 countries in the Press Freedom Index for 2022, according to the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders.