Thursday, 25 September 2008, 01:25 GMT
Parliament approves Kurdistan journalism law

A Kurdish Parliament session focuses on the journalism law. Press Photo

The Kurdish Globe

Objections to the law by Kurdish journalists lead to more freedom and journalistic protection.

Papers will not be shut down, more press freedom will be granted, and penalties against journalists will be reduced in the newly amended law.

Kurdistan parliament approved the journalism law in Monday's session after amending articles that had been criticized by Kurdish journalists.

"The parliament opened a wider door to freedom and the chance granted to journalists must be used to rebuild the country," said KRG Minister of Culture Falakaddin Kakaee at the end of the session.

Parliament speaker Adnan Mufti also expressed his approval: "Approving this law is a victory for parliament and for democracy and it is appropriate for our community. If we note defections in executing the law, we can amend it next year."

With attendance of Kakaee in the session, the parliamentary committees of legal affairs and cultural and relations presented their reports on the law and suggested amendments in articles 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 9, and 10, which are related to closing newspapers, fining journalists, and the use of terms such as "public ethics" and "Region's security."

The journalism law, number 35 of Kurdistan parliament's 2007 laws, was brought to a vote on December 11 of last year and it was sent to the Kurdistan Region Presidency for ratification on December 28. But President Massoud Barzani rejected ratification of the law due to wide objections from Kurdistan media agencies and journalists, and it was returned to parliament on January 3, 2008. Parliament has been in continuous discussions on the journalism law until September 22, at which time it was brought to a vote.

Article 1, a glossary of the law, remains unchanged. Article 2, consisting of five items, was controversial and faced sensitive changes. Amending Article 2 included removing the phrase "public ethics and public system" from Item 1. A majority of 49 chose to amend it, whereas 32 opposed any amendment to the article.

"Journalism is free and there is no sensor on it; expression and publishing freedom is granted to every citizen; within the frame of respecting individuals' private rights and freedoms, the life privacy, public ethics, and public system are achieved according to law?," read Item 2 of Article 2 before the amendments.

"The journalist can receive information important to people and related to common interests from diverse sources, if it is not related to the Region's security," read Item 2 of Article 2. The phrase "if it is not related to the Region's security" was changed to "will be arranged by law."

In Article 3, which concerns the establishment of newspapers, only Item 3 was amended. To establish a newspaper, an application should be submitted to the Kurdistan Journalists' Syndicate and the Ministry of Culture must also be informed. The application for establishing newspapers had to be given to the ministry and to inform the syndicate about, before the change.

Conditions on Editors-in-Chief are mentioned in Article 4. The amendments included removing the section in Item 1 that read "the journalist must be a member of the syndicate," as well as removing all of Item 2, which said that the editor should be a resident of Kurdistan region or a permanent resident.

Article 5, which describes cases in which newspapers are to be closed, was removed completely by a majority of votes.

Item 1 of Article 9 was amended to read "in the case where legal procedures are taken against journalists, the Journalists' Syndicate must be informed."

Article 10, which spoke about punishing journalists, was amended by removing the phrase "in case of contradicting another firmer penalty that is used in the region?" and "the journalist will be fined?" remained in Item 1. "Firmer penalties" indicate punishments relevant to the Region's terror law. Amendments to Item 2 of Article 10 include reducing fines for journalists and newspapers.

In case of violations, mostly in defamation cases, a journalist could be charged with a fine of no less then 1 million ID (nearly US$830) and no more than 5 million ID, while this sum was 5 million to 10 million ID before the amendment. Also, a newspaper found to be in violation of the law could be fined with a sum of 5 million to 10 million ID; fines previous to the amendment were 10 million to 20 million ID.

In the final voting on the total project law, the journalism law was approved with the whole votes except one member, Sheikh Fatih, who opposed to the remove of "public ethics" term in the law.