QUESTION: Hello. My name is Rahim Rashidi. I am reporter for Kurdistan TV. My question is: What is your opinion on human rights of Kurdistan Regional Government of Iraq?
ACTING ASSISTANT SECRETARY ZEYA: Well, thank you for your question. With respect to our topic today on world press freedom and the situation for journalists, we have a number of concerns with the overall situation in Iraq. The information for last year’s Human Rights Report, we had five journalists reported killed in Iraq, but hundreds of cases of harassment of journalists in Iraq proper and also in the Iraqi Kurdistan region.
So again, I think Iraq is a perfect example where the – a free media and a media reporting on the situation and the human rights situation in particular as it takes place is really vital to the country moving forward. And we’d like to see more attention to harassment and particular acts of intimidation and violence against journalists – accountability in those cases so Iraqi media can continue to flourish.
UNDER SECRETARY SONENSHINE: And I would only add, as journalists, I think all of you know how important it is to focus as countries go through the transition from military to civilian life that often, without the military there, sometimes the networks, in terms of the U.S., aren’t in Iraq reporting. And sometimes you’ve left behind a local indigenous press that isn’t fully developed and isn’t fully able to exercise what it would like to do either. And I do think it’s important to cover that story because we’re not always going to be every place, but mobile phones are every place, and independent media can and should be local, indigenously reporting. But I do think we have to watch as these societies transition to make sure that we haven’t lost sight of their media needs.