Media freedom in Kurdistan

Kamal Chomani

I grew up in a time and place when freedom of expression was a given — which is why witnessing the increasing threat to media freedom in Europe and around the world has been so difficult to grasp. For the last several months, I’ve had the privilege of working on the DW Freedom project, a desk at Germany’s international broadcaster dedicated to highlighting press rights violations and the cases of journalists who have been arrested, imprisoned, or murdered for their investigative work. It’s been an honor to speak with journalists who’ve risked their lives for their work and to see how they’ve carried on in their work despite the dangers their critical reporting. From one of those recent interviews, with Kurdish journalist, Kamal Chomani, I learned more about the role that the English-language media plays and how easily story perspectives can be shifted by parachute journalists:

There are so many people who write in Kurdish. But when you write in English — because there are very very few writing in English — and you write critically, it puts your life at greater risk. They have completely controlled the English media. They have spent a lot on advertising, given a lot of cash to foreign journalists or academics who write about them very well. Especially after 2003, there was this advertising propaganda that said there is this other Iraq where democracy is booming.

For your viewing pleasure: my speech on online harassment from the Media Convention Berlin 2019 ‘Dick Pics & Death Threats’

In case you missed me speaking about the threats that women journalists face online at the Media Convention Berlin last month, here’s your chance to make up for it. I was honored to speak to Der Spiegel ahead of the event and to see they’d recommended my workshop for visitors to re:publica. I was in such remarkable company, with several workshops dedicated to dealing with the threats and online harassment women are experiencing. If you’ve got 30 minutes, here’s a great overview of something I’ll be covering for the next several months.

Anabel Hernandez at the Global Media Forum

After writing a feature on Anabel Hernandez’s reporting on corruption and drug cartels in Mexico — and the role that Europe and the US plays in the thousands of murders in Latin America that is driving migration and displacement — it was an honor to hear Hernandez speak in person at this year’s Global Media Forum. In creating a short profile of her work and reporting out the unique threats that journalists in Mexico face (it is, in 2019, the most dangerous country not at war for journalists), I learned what true courage is. Here’s an excerpt from her speech accepting the award; you can read it in its entirety at the DW Freedom page, where I’m a contributing editor.

“The killings of journalists are increasing all over the world. Journalists live in the most violent time in recent history, thus affecting society’s human right to be timely and truthfully informed. Each journalist killed means repercussions on hundreds of people who remain silent in the face of violence.

But why are they killing us? Why are they threatening us? Why are they imprisoning us? Why do they want to silence us?

The world is living in dark times in all respects, in all spheres. Where we look, everything is confusing, there is no clarity, there is no transparency, there is no accountability. Frontiers are becoming blurred, economic models no longer really differ from one another. The distances between left, center and right are shrinking.

In so many countries of the world, the same thing seems to be happening, putting democracy at great risk and the freedoms that to achieve have cost us so many sacrifices.”