ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – A media advocacy group has criticized Baghdad for delaying or outright denying visa applications for foreign journalists wanting to visit the Kurdistan Region.
Journalists “who want to visit Erbil face obstacles during visa procedures,” the Sulaimani-based Metro Center for Journalists Rights and Advocacy stated on Tuesday.
Iraqi embassy officials ask journalists applying for visas about the nature of their planned reported and, “If the subject is related to the Kurdistan Region, their visa will be denied,” Metro stated.
The head of Metro’s board, Rahman Gharib, told Kurdish Awena newspaper on Tuesday that “the number of foreign journalists in the Region has dropped by 90 percent” since some 100 foreign journalists attended a press conference with former president Masoud Barzani ahead of the September independence referendum.
The center expressed concern about the delayed or rejected visas, noting that the issue is not limited to visas, but also extends to residency permits. KRG residency permits are not recognized in Iraq, so journalists are “not allowed to step out of the airports,” Metro stated.
Metro called on relevant parties and the international community to “lift all strict procedures against journalists traveling to the Kurdistan Region and to end procedures which strain media freedom and information rights.”