Dear Colleagues and Dignitaries
Rahman Ghareeb

Good greeting,
My name is Rahman Gharib. I have been working for a quarter of a century in press and defense of the rights of journalists.

In the name of the Metro Center for Defending the Rights of Journalists, a civil organization working in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, I extend my thanks to the Gulf Center for Human Rights for inviting us to participate in this meeting and thank them for providing the opportunity to present this testimony and talk about what is being exposed to journalists in Iraq.

Our center was established in 2009 by a group of Iraqi journalists, including the martyr Ammar Shabandar, who we lost after an explosion in downtown Baghdad in May 2015. The martyr Ammar was among a list of journalists killed as a result of terrorist acts and organized assassinations. The list included 199 journalists who were killed by unknown gunmen, militias or mafias of corruption. 

In addition to 56 other journalists, who were killed while they were in places where explosions were carried out by unknown persons, 22 journalists lost their lives by US forces, and two journalists were killed by Iraqi forces.

Dear Colleagues, in 2017, at least 81 journalists were killed in the course of their media work or because of them worldwide. According to the International Federation of Journalists, at a regional level, the Arab world and the Middle East recorded 24 cases of murders of journalists. According to the report, at least 15 journalists have been killed over the past year, covering conflicts in Iraq and Syria, making Middle Eastern countries "deadliest" for journalists. This is the first time in six years that Syria has not topped the list of deadly countries for journalists. In 2017, Iraq ranked top first in the Middle East, as the deadliest of journalists, where assassination and killing of at least eight journalists across Iraq has been recorded.

 This was one of the reasons for the UN resolution in 2012 to adopt the UN plan of action for the security of journalists and to address the issue of impunity, i.e. escaping from the punishment. This plan is an important mechanism for linking local initiatives of journalists' security and global initiatives at the same level to ensure Freedom of the press, the ability of the journalist to perform his work objectively and professionally, to implement his duties in monitoring the performance of all sectors of society, and to transfer the truth freely and without harassment.

Freedom of the press is not a luxury issue in any society; it is the heart of democracy. It is the cornerstone of building citizenship and humanity for citizens. Freedom of the press is the condition of good governance and the rule of law.

Metro Center, in cooperation with International Media Sport, has undertaken the implementation of this international plan in Iraq, where Iraq was selected as one of the countries selected by the United Nations to implement its plan.

 Studies show that the most effective responses to the safety of journalists and human rights defenders are those generated and led by a broad coalition of stakeholders, including the media, civil society, authorities and international organizations. This comes at a time when the Iraqi constitution has committed the state to ensure the basic rights of journalists is the freedom of their work.

The most common violations of journalists' rights are those that occur as journalists try to take photographs of human rights violations against activists and demonstrators demanding improved services. When the journalist was filming the event, the authorities were preventing them by force. Thus, the authorities violate the citizen's right to peaceful expression and the journalist's right to cover the story.

Article 38 states that the State guarantees "freedom of expression by all means" and "freedom of the press, printing, advertising, media and publication". There is also a law passed by the House of Representatives hastily in 2011 entitled "The Rights of Journalists Law", however; it did not guarantee even the most basic professional rights of journalists. Instead, when implemented or put into practice; it has become a law that could be entitled "the Law of the Government's Right on Journalists."

 In the Kurdistan Region, despite the Access to Information Act and the Law of the press, both laws in fact are often disabled, and the restriction on freedom of the press is the most prominent title for the reality of journalists and their freedom. On Saturday, January 13, the Monitoring Unit of the National Association of Journalists in Iraq issued its annual report on violations against journalists during the last year. Meanwhile, the Metro Center for the Defense of Journalists' Rights issued a similar report on the situation of journalists in the Kurdistan region. 

The most horrific crime committed against a journalist was carried out after the return of the army and popular mobilization units to the areas of Kirkuk, where masked gunmen stormed the house of the journalist Arkan Shareef, a Kurdistan TV photographer of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, in Khorsi area of Daqouq district. A group of masked gunmen stormed the outer door of the house. After they entered, they caught Arkan Shareef, 49 years old, and tied his hands. They took him to one of the rooms, and committed their sinful crime there. He was killed by a knife used by soldiers in wars. The number of stabs he received exceeded 40 stabs in different places of his body, groaning and screaming before the members of his family, including his wife and three children. The Iraqi government also decided to stop the satellite channels of Rudaw and Kurdistan 24 in the areas entered by the Iraqi army after October 16, 2017.

The two reports reinforce the content of the reports of relevant international organizations, which classify Iraq as the last among the list of countries where journalists are protected, their rights are respected and freedom of opinion and expression is respected. The reports have monitored the violations against journalists and their institutions not only by the ISIS terrorist organization, but also by state institutions, government agencies, armed groups operating outside the law and the media and media institutions throughout Iraq, including the Kurdistan region. It's a really horrifying number.

Metro Center
Journalists Rights & Advocacy
Metro Center was founded by a group of journalists in 2009, in cooperation with Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR). The Institute had supported the center during the first year of its establishment.

On July 18, 2010, Metro Center held its first conference in the city of Erbil, in which the Board of Administration and Management Council were elected. Meanwhile, the conference announced to work jointly with Journalistic Freedoms Observatory (JFO) and their General Council of Management was consequently chosen as well.

Since 2015, Mr.Rahman Ghareeb became the director of Metro center after he has been elected in the second conference of the center.

At the end of 2017, new election has been conducted and Dyar Mhammad has been elected as a director for Metro Center.

Since 2009, this is the 5th time that the director of Metro Center has been nominated through the election process. 

This is the 7th annual report that Metro Center has been publishing for seven executive years.
Since its establishment, Metro Center has implemented numerous projects and activities in connection with (IWPR), the Danish International Media Support (IMS), Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA), and Democracy and Human Rights Development Center (DHRD), aiming to broaden the scope of freedom of expression in Kurdistan Region of Iraq and reduce the violations against journalists to zero point.

The main objective of Metro Center is to create an apt environment for journalistic work in Kurdistan, depending on the implementation of the Press Law (No. 35) of 2007 in Kurdistan Region, passed by Kurdistan Parliament and signed by the president of the Kurdish Region.

Metro is a licensed NGO according to Law (1) in 2011 that regulates NGOs in Kurdistan Region.

In January, 2015 it elected its steering committee and its director. Since its establishment, Metro has produced five annual reports (2010-2015) on the status of journalistic rights in Kurdistan.