Why Sulaymaniyah Security Forces Arrested Journalist Shakar Star?

Shakar Star, presenter at Tiwar News

By KirkukNow

Officials at the Tiwar News where Star Star works deny that he produced the report on "dangerous border smugglers of gold, drugs, cash dollar and weapons" and say he took part as an anchor.

Shakar Star, an announcer for Tiwar News, was arrested by security forces at the Ashti-Koya checkpoint at 10:45 pm on Saturday, May 18, while trying to return from Sulaymaniyahyah Northern Province to Erbil with his wife and children.

Star is from Sulaymaniyahyah but lives in Erbil because of his job at Tiwar News website. His family and two children were released in Sulaymaniyahyah the same night, but he is still in Asayish (security) prison.

The Kurdistan Regional Government KRG Security Agency said in a statement on May 19 that the accused had prepared and submitted a series of "false and misleading" reports to an "unofficial" page accusing the KRG Security Agency in his reports.

Ahead of his arrest, Star read a series of reports entitled "Dangerous Border Smugglers", in which he accused the Sulaymaniyah security forces and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan PUK officials of "opium and drug smuggling", as well as "human trafficking and foreign workers from Iran to Sulaymaniyah.”

The four-part series of reports was published between April 23 and May 12, by Tiwar News, all focused on trafficking of human, foreign workers and cash US dollar.

The reports mention the “facilitation and participation” of Sulaymaniyah security officials and the “involvement” of PUK officials in these illegal activities.

"Afghan Shiites are brought from Afghanistan to Tehran and from there, with the help of security officials, including the security forces, and with the facilitation of PUK leaders, they are brought to Sulaymaniyah and sent to Hashdi Shaabi," in reference to pro-Iran paramilitary of Popular Mobilization Forces.

“They are selling them to smuggling gangs and handing them over to Hashdi Shaabi forces in central Iraq.”

The report also names several security and military units in Sulaymaniyah and says that they receive a certain amount of money for each Afghan crossing the border, as well as for smuggling dollars and importing opium and drugs.

The Asayish said in a statement that the aim of the reports was to "create chaos, fear and anxiety among people.”

"He has been detained under Article 226 of the Iraqi Penal Code and is being investigated," the statement added.

Article 226 states anyone who publicly insults the National Assembly, the government, the courts, the armed forces, other regular bodies, public authorities, or official or semi-official departments shall be punished with imprisonment for a period not exceeding seven years, detention, or a fine.

Tiwar News, as it says on its website, began working at the end of March 2023, to pay attention to "political, economic and social events of the day" and Rebaz Bawzi, writer and translator, is the editor-in-chief.

While the security agency says it is “not official,” the website is officially licensed by the Kurdistan Union of Journalists.

Star's relatives insist that they have not received any arrest warrant before his arrest. “No judge's order has been received by Star or our agency, but only an oral order has been received by Tiwar's announcer. Verbal orders are threats and have no legal effect.”

"Shakar Star was an announcer and was only responsible for reading the reports and did not prepare any of the reports," Tiwar News said in a statement.

However, Tiwar News says it is working as a news agency and that its staff "has an experienced team of journalists who have prepared the reports carefully, professionally and responsibly.

The Metro Center for the Protection of Journalists' Rights said in a statement on the case of Star, "Is it possible for the complainant to arrest and investigate the crimes related to publication?"

"In recent years, several instructions have been issued to the security agencies that no security agency except the police can summon journalists in cases related to publication, only by order of a judge," it added.

Karwan Anwar, head of the Sulaimani branch of the Kurdistan Union of Journalists, told KirkukNow that the case of Shakar Star is related to the publication of a number of reports on the security agency and defamation of Asayish as their statement syas.

“We are not familiar with this agency in Sulaimaniyah and has received a license in Erbil. Yesterday we wanted to have a statement for this purpose, but later the security agency explained the case and we believe he will be released in the next couple of days.”

Tiwar News Agency considers the arrest of its presenter "blatant violation by the PUK security forces" and warns them that "safety of journalist Shakar Star is their (Asayish’s) responsibility.”

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