Journalist Hemin Mamand arrested in Iraqi Kurdistan after post critical of Masrour Barzani

25 March 2020 – EKURD NET – Kurdish journalist Hêmin Mamand Erbil Iraqi Kurdistan. HEWLÊR-Erbil, Iraq’s Kurdistan region,— Kurdish journalist Hêmin Mamand was arrested on Tuesday in Erbil after criticizing Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Prime Minister Masrour Barzani in a Facebook post.A relative of Mamand told NRT that the Erbil Police arrested him at his home and took him to Eskan police station.

Mamand has drawn the ire of the authorities in Erbil in the past and was recently sued by Matin Dlovan Idris Barzani, Iraqi Kurdistan Region President Nechirvan Barzani’s nephew for defamation. In that case, the charges against him were dropped and his co-defendant, journalist Niyaz Abdulla, was acquitted for lack of evidence.

In his Facebook post, Mamand predicted that the KRG would not protect residents from bearing the cost of the coronavirus shutdown. Although the government has said that it would suspend payments on things like rent and government loan repayments, he argued that other costs like internet and monthly generator bills would come due while people were not working or receiving their salaries because of the coronavirus curfew.

“Workers and vendors no longer earn living,” Mamand wrote.

“You [KRG Prime Minister Masrour Barzani] have been stealing money for 30 years and you have not saved a dinar for such a day. The situation will explode. Bring back that money that you have stolen,” he added.

On March 9, the KRG said that it would “authorized the justice ministry to launch prosecutions of any individuals, parties, or media outlets that spread misinformation about the [coronavirus] outbreak, work to undermine government health policy, or create chaos.”

It was not clear on what charges Mamand was being held, although it is common for people in the Kurdistan Region to be arrested and held in pre-trial custody while investigations are being made. The KRG has been known to charge journalists with Article 2 of Communications Device Misuse Law for content posted online in an effort to intimidate and harass them.

The Kurdistan Journalists’ Syndicate on Wednesday objected to the arrest of journalist Hemin Mamand in Erbil, saying that it would investigate the case.

“The journalists syndicate has a special committee that investigates violations against journalists and they will follow up on this case,” Kurdistan Journalists’ Syndicate Secretary Smko Abdulkarim said.

Iraq, including the Kurdistan Region, ranks 156 out of 180 on Reporters Without Borders 2019 World Press Freedom Index.

For many years, transparency organizations, lawmakers, observers, and international organizations have accused senior Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government KRG officials of corruption, especially with regard to expropriation of the Kurdistan’s oil income.

Kurdistan considered as the most corrupted part of Iraq. According to Kurdish lawmakers and leaked documents billions of dollars are missing from Iraqi Kurdistan’s oil revenues.

The ruling Barzani clan have been routinely accused by critics and oberevers of neptunism and amassing huge wealth from oil business for the family instead of serving the population. KDP party leader and ex-president Massoud Barzani remains the most powerful leader in the shadow according to analysts. Massoud’s son Masrour is the Kurdistan region’s prime minister and his nephew Nechirvan Barzani is president of Kurdistan.

Also the ruling Talabani family and its allies have been routinely accused by transparency organizations and observers of corruption and amassing huge wealth from oil business in the the areas controlled by the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan party.

The Kurdish government has long “promised” action to combat graft, but has never made much headway.