By YAHYA BARZANJI
SULAIMANIYAH, Iraq (AP) — Lawmakers in Iraq's self-ruled Kurdish region approved a measure that would allow courts to accuse journalists of "vague offenses" relating to terrorism or disturbing security, drawing protests Friday from Kurdish journalists and an international media advocate. The Committee to Protect Journalists said the bill, approved Tuesday in a sparsely attended parliamentary session, could be "exploited by pro-government judges to put critical newspapers out of business." Aws Herdi, editor of the weekly Kurdish newspaper Owena, accused the major Kurdish parties that supported the measure of hypocrisy, saying their slogans for freedom "are only empty words."
Shihab called on Barzani to veto the measure.
Under the measure, journalists can be prosecuted in counterterrorism courts, which could bring the death penalty, and newspapers can be shut down for up to six months and face fines up to $8,200. "Given the tenuous financial and political situation of independent papers — several operate at losses or barely break even — the bill's elastic language could be exploited by pro-government judges to put critical newspapers out of business," the Committee to Protect Journalists said in a statement Friday.