At 11 am on Wednesday, August 23, a group of journalists received a brief statement from the residents of Bahari Nwe neighborhood in Erbil.
The statement said that they were holding a rally regarding the drinking water problem. The content of the problem was that a powerful person in the neighborhood wanted to supply his house with water illegally in a back street of the neighborhood, which was unacceptable to the neighbors.
I informed my agency (Esta Media Agency) for coverage. When I arrived at the scene, I have launched a live broadcast and got back in my car to send it to my agency.
When I arrived, there were no security forces, but all I knew was that about 20 gunmen arrived at the scene and two gunmen took me out of the car. The forces were dressed in police and Zeravani (Kurdish fighter) uniforms.
They also arrested Yasser Mohammed, a reporter for Walat (Country) News Agency, with me.
They took my mobile phone and everything. They said you are by yourself and I said yes, so they wouldn't arrest my cameraman.
They moved Yasser and me to a place far from the neighborhood and began investigating. We said we were journalists and they said coverage was illegal here without explaining coverage was illegal.
We said we are journalists and they said coverage is illegal
They took our mobile phone passwords, deleted our photos and looked at the letters published in the Erbil Journalists Group about our arrest.
They said you had two options: either you had to send a letter to the Erbil Journalists Group saying that we had not been arrested and that we had no problems, or quietly get into the patrol car.
They forced us to send a voicemail to the group. "Hello friends... we have not been arrested. They sent us away. We were still there. Obviously, there were some problems in that neighborhood. We were not arrested.” This is a summary of the voicemail.
Then the gunmen took our cameras and broke their memories, and then gave us back our cameras and mobile phones.
We responded very calmly and nicely, but they spoke very harshly to us.
Ahead of our release, we signed a letter not to write anything about this issue. Then they took pictures of us and said that if we even posted about this issue, we would recognize you and know what to do with you.
In a statement, Esta Media Agency condemned the attack and called on the security forces to do their duty and stop harassing journalists and allow them to fulfill their professional duties in conveying the demands of the people. Besides, they released a video of the reporter's arrest.
Twenty-four hours after the incident, the Erbil security forces did not give any explanation about the incident. They did not speak to any agency about the violation.
Both the Reporters’ Rights and Development Organization and the Metro Center for the Rights of Journalists and Advocacy condemned the incident. The Metro Center called on the commander of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) armed forces to investigate the illegal behavior of a force that "violated human rights principles and considers citizens' protests and media coverage illegal."
"The safety of journalists is increasingly under threat and the security forces do not respect the work of journalists, attack media outlets, confiscate their belongings and arrest them," Reporters’ Rights and Development said.