The Kurdistan Democratic Party has filed a one billion US dollar defamation lawsuit, the largest in Iraqi history, against an opposition newspaper, the Metro Center to Defend Journalists, which represents the Journalistic Freedoms Observatory JFO in Kurdistan region, said on Monday.
On July 20, Rozhnama, a newspaper affiliated with the main opposition group Change, published a report about illegal oil trade in Iraqi Kurdistan. The story included claims that the two ruling parties, the Kurdistan Democratic Party, KDP, and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, PUK, have made millions of dollars from oil smuggling.
Fazil Mirani, KDP politburo secretary, filed a defamation lawsuit on July 25 demanding one billion US dollars in compensation from the newspaper. The plaintiff filed a separate lawsuit seeking travel ban on Nawshirwan Mustafa, publisher of Rozhnama and head of the Change movement; Azad Chalak, Rozhnama editor-in-chief; and Sirwan Rasheed, who wrote the article.
A court hearing for the travel ban has been scheduled for August 8 in Erbil.
“This is the biggest compensation demand by a plaintiff in the history of Iraqi journalism,” said the Metro Center to Defend Journalists. “We are very concerned about this lawsuit. We believe it sets a precedent that will negatively affect the press in the region and will have a chilling effect on journalists.”
“I was really shocked by the lawsuit,” Rasheed said. “I depended on various sources to write the report. If they (KDP) claim that the information is not correct then they should tell people the correct information.”
Rozhnama, launched in June 2007, is published by Wisha Company. Nawshirwan Mustafa, leader of Goran (Change) Movement established the company in 2006.
Metro Center to Defend Journalists is an independent organization defending journalists and press freedom in Iraqi Kurdistan, The organization represents the Baghdad-based Journalistic Freedoms Observatory in the Kurdistan Region.