On July 22, 2020, the attorney general’s office of the Kurdistan Regional Government filed a complaint against Rudaw’s former Editor in Chief, Kurdish journalist Rebwar Kerim Wali, alleging he violated the 2008 Law on Misuse of Communication Devices, according to a statement by a government spokesperson.
If charged and convicted, Rebwar may face punishments of up to five years in jail and fines of up to 5 million Iraqi dinars ($4,200).
The government statement alleged that a March 28 post criticizing COVID-19 restrictions in southern Kurdistan was posted on Wali’s personal Facebook account where he frequently posts news commentary to over 63,000 followers. The government claimed that Wali’s criticisms somehow incited people to ignore the government’s pandemic restrictions.
The post shared by Rebwar said that the virus had been “turned into hysteria used by different regimes for their own good.”
Opposition views being silenced
Rebwar, who lives in Sweden and spoke to CPJ agency, explained that he believes authorities are pursuing him in retaliation for op-eds he wrote for Kurdish broadcaster Rudaw, in which he criticized Prime Minister Masrour Barzani. The prime minister is the uncle of Kurdish President Nechirvan, who owns the broadcaster.
Until April 2020, Rebwar worked as a columnist and host of a talk-show on Rudaw and resigned in April out of concern that the government might kill him. Rebwar said he would not return to Kurdistan out of “ear for his life.
A threat to national security
Rebwar had previously been scrutinized by Berhem Ahmad Salih, the former prime minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government and former deputy prime minister of the Iraqi federal government, who filed legal action against the journalist for an article he wrote for the independent weekly Awene (Mirror). In the article, Rebwar had accused the prime minister of spending more time dining in chic restaurants than in his office trying to deal with the needs of his fellow citizens. The move was labeled a threat to national security.