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As war on IS continues, Iraqi Kurdish journalists face suppression

Kurdish activists complain of suppression and limitation of independent journalistic freedom in the Kurdistan Region.
Iraqi Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani speaks to journalists on December 21, 2014 during a visit to Mount Sinjar, west of the northern Iraqi city of Mosul. Barzani hailed advances by peshmerga fighters against the Islamic State jihadist group (IS) as they battled the militants for a northern town, backed by US-led strikes.  AFP PHOTO / SAFIN HAMED        (Photo credit should read SAFIN HAMED/AFP/Getty Images)

ERBIL, Iraq — Despite the bright picture of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan Region seen by outsiders, it is in a crisis of free expression. While Western leaders often praise its stability, relative prosperity and democratic institutions, the region — soon to hold a referendum on independence — is not a friendly place for independent-minded media workers and local journalists. US support for Kurdish politicians and soldiers battling the Islamic State (IS) may be inadvertently facilitating a further crackdown on critical voices and a growing authoritarianism.

"First they try to bribe you," said Sherwan Sherwani, a Kurdish journalist, of Kurdish authorities dissatisfied with independent reporting. Sherwani’s magazine, Bashur, had been digging up the dirty pasts of local politicians for several years, and authorities have had enough.

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