Friday, November 29, 2019
Hosted by Free Press Unlimited, Iraqi officials have visited the Dutch Persveilig initiative to learn about ways to counter impunity for crimes committed against journalists.

Members of the Iraqi National Committee for Safety of Journalists and the Special Investigative Unit, tasked with solving crimes against journalists, travelled to the Netherlands in November for a series of meetings with key members of the Dutch steering group on aggression and violence against journalists, Persveilig.

“It’s very encouraging to have this dialogue on the need for press freedom and the importance of safety of journalists,” said Free Press Unlimited’s Boris van Westering.

Incident reporting

During the meeting, the two delegations discussed a standardised protocol for dealing with threats to journalists. Persveilig also shared expertise about its online portal to report safety incidents. Van Westering: “In Iraq, many such incidents go unreported. There’s a lack of trust in authorities and in some cases, it can be physically dangerous to go to the police station. An online portal for reporting incidents can make a difference.”

Free Press Unlimited partnered with UNESCO Iraq four years ago in supporting the Iraqi committee tasked with journalist safety. Iraq has since started fulfilling its international obligation of reporting journalist killings happening in the country to UNESCO. Last year, a special investigative unit dealing with crimes committed against journalists was established with the support of UNESCO and Free Press Unlimited to solve criminal cases.

Persveilig was launched in early November by the Dutch Journalists Union (NVJ), the Dutch Society of Editors, National Police and the Netherlands Public Prosecution Service to enable better co-operation on the issue of safety of journalists in the Netherlands.

Police training

"The exchange led to a better understanding by the Iraqi delegation of the policy required to keep journalists safe, and how to measure journalists' safety," said Dhea Subhee of UNESCO's Iraq office. "One important outcome is that in the future, Dutch National Police might train police officers in Iraq on how to effectively investigate crimes against journalists."

Iraq continues to be an extremely dangerous country for journalists. It ranks third in the 2019 Global Impunity Index by the Committee to Protect Journalists. In the past 10 years, 45 journalists were killed in the country for doing their job.

Despite the increased violence against journalists over the past months, the Iraqi government has said it remains committed to scale up their efforts in protecting Iraqi media and journalists. The Iraqi government expressed their hope to Free Press Unlimited and UNESCO to continue to work on this topic and increase Iraqi capacity in dealing with journalists safety from the side of the Iraqi Police but also in relation to the Iraqi journalists and media.