A bomb blast has shaken staff members at a TV station in Iraq’s Kurdistan Region. The assault followed insults against Kurdistan's ruling family by a member of the public on one of the station’s live shows. Dale McEwan has this report from Arbil in Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region.
The Kurdistan Region’s Nalia Radio and Television - NRT - is reeling following a bomb attack on Saturday night. The small device on NRT’s roof did not claim any casualties but was enough to send a warning. The previous day a member of the public phoned in to a live show and blasted Kurdistan’s ruling Barzani family. NRT, based in Kurdistan’s Sulaymaniyah city, has called on Kurdistan’s semi-autonomous government for protection.
Critics say the member of the public disrespected the Kurdistan Democratic Party’s historical leader Mustafa Barzani and Kurdistan’s current President Massoud Barzani. The caller asked: “Is it possible in a year to use $1.7m for repairing electricity and $343m for the Barzani grave?” The caller then used an obscenity towards the Barzanis before NRT disconnected the call. But Kurdistan Democratic Party supporters later protested outside NRT's office before the bomb attack. Pro-NRT crowds rallied outside the office after the bomb explosion.
Human Rights Watch has issued a statement commenting generally on Kurdistan’s freedom of speech: “These are dark days for freedom of expression in Iraq’s Kurdistan Region. Instead of ensuring the justice system investigates high-level corruption, the Kurdistan Regional Government is ignoring its own laws to protect free speech and assembly, and using ‘laws’ that are not in force to silence dissent.”
NRT’s three-storey office was torched in February 2011. NRT’s owner had received threats from politicians and was asked to stop broadcasting. NRT was the first independent satellite broadcaster in Iraqi Kurdistan.