“How social media become the arm of governments for repression and censorship”

In the last two years, the pressure on the media and media activists in the Kurdistan region has intensified.

In recent weeks, at least two independent media pages have been shut down on Facebook.

First Diplomatic Magazine and this time Bwar News.

The manegers of those medias believe that the ruling parties are involved in closing their pages in various ways and by using their high financial capacity.

“The assassination of the media will not stop them,” Bwar News reported.

The statement from Bwar news said that after covering sensitive issues in their reports over the past three months, they had faced a wave of cyber-attacks, forcing them to create a new page.

Earlier, Diplomatic Magzin, whose Facebook page was taken down, said that they were facing cyber attacks due to the publication of some articles about corruption.

“The ruling elite and the regional security forces may have access to some advanced technology and are using it to censor social media and crack down on dissent,” said Hemn Baqer, editor-in-chief of Diplomatic Magazine. He called it a “media assassination.”

He believes that journalists and independent media should stand together and deal with this phenomenon.

“The rulers are using all available means to suppress journalists, including intimidation, disturbing public opinion, espionage, arresting and imprisoning and even killing journalists,” said Hiva Jamal, a prominent journalist and TV presenter.

On the other hand, according to Rehman Gharib, director of the Metro Center, an organization for the protection of journalists and freedom of expression, dozens of people in the Kurdistan region have been arrested simply for writing comments on social media or even liking content on social media.

In the past two years, more than 80 journalists, civil society activists and critics of the regional government have been arrested in Duhok province.

According to Karwan Anwar, director of the Sulaimaniyah branch of the Kurdistan Journalists’ Union, more than 10 journalists living in Erbil and Duhok have been forced to seek refuge in Sulaimaniyah due to pressure and intimidation from the ruling party in the two cities.

The crackdown on, arrest and sentencing of critical journalists in Duhok has drawn criticism from international organizations and Western countries.

However, the KRG and officials of the Iraqi Kurdistan Democratic Party, the ruling party in Erbil and Dohuk, deny the allegations of repression of journalists and violation of freedom of expression, insisting that the detainees’ crimes have nothing to do with their media or civic activities. Rather, they are accused of trying to undermine national security.

The pressures are not limited to journalists, some citizens and even political figures are being punished by the Facebook network for publishing articles or writing comments against the interests of the ruling parties in the Kurdistan Region through media outlets affiliated with the region.

In this regard, Aso Mahmoud, a former official of the Movement for Change, stated that after he wrote a critical comment on the “Kurdistan 24” page (a TV channel affiliated with the Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Region, Masroor Barzani) according to the complaint of this TV channel for 3 days by the Facebook has been banded him!

All of this calls into question the mechanisms of social networks, especially Facebook, which is the most popular social network in the Kurdistan region, and how they easily become the arm of governments for repression and censorship.