A young man who stormed the NRT office in Duhok waves a flag of Kurdistan next to the NRT logo on August 31, 2017. Photo: social media
DUHOK, Kurdistan Region – A number of people stormed the Duhok office of NRT Thursday evening, vandalizing property and demanding the channel support a yes-vote in the upcoming independence referendum.
Shaswar Abdulwahid Qadir, NRT owner, is currently heading a “No for Now” campaign against the vote.
The channel broadcast the incident at its Duhok office live, showing a group of young people, some with the Kurdistan flag, tearing down a billboard bearing the NRT logo.
The channel interviewed one of the young men who said he wants NRT and its owner to support the vote.
“We want NRT channel to say yes like every other channel,” the young man said angrily, chanting yes for the referendum.
The media advocacy group Metro Center condemned the incident as “a dangerous step to encourage violence against the ‘No’ camp and is a blatant violation of the freedom of expression.”
NRT claimed that the group of 10 young men used a car belonging to the Ministry of Peshmerga and that some of them were armed.
Halgurd Hikmat, spokesperson for the Peshmerga ministry, denied NRT’s claim. He called on the channel to file a formal complaint if they had evidence.
At least two of the young men could be seen tearing down an NRT sign inside the channel’s office unchallenged, although members of the security forces were present.
Riot police and members of security forces forced the young men out and the office is now said to be functioning again.
A Duhok police spokesperson told Rudaw that no one was arrested as there were no violations committed in what he described as a “protest.” He said a number of young people “peacefully” entered the NRT office calling for the channel to stop advertising the no-vote campaign. No material damage or injuries resulted from the incident, the police spokesperson added.
The channel has been airing ads for both the ‘no’ and ‘yes’ campaigns.
NRT was not immediately available to comment on the incident.
The channel said its terrestrial broadcasts have been stopped since Monday by Kurdish authorities on grounds of distributing materials in support of the ‘no’ campaign.
President Masoud Barzani, who is head of the High Referendum Council that called for the September 25 vote, said earlier this month that he believes no-voters should not be shunned.
“I am not with labeling people as traitor,” Barzani said in a meeting with the Civil Society Organization.
NRT owner Qadir and a number of Kurdish activists and politicians from various parties launched a “No for Now” campaign in August that calls for people to vote ‘no’ in the referendum because the timing and conditions are not right.