Today Nilesat has banned both Rudaw news and K24 news from being broadcast on their satellite systems citing a high degree of false information propagated which has incited hatred and genocide against the Yazidi, Shia and Assyrian populations of Iraq as well as Kurdish opposition parties. In addition to these charges there is a large degree of criticism of the channels being owned by the current ruling family of the Kurdish region of Iraq (KRI). The senior assistant to the current leader of the KRI has publicly asked outlets to fall in line and post content to “serve national unity”. Following this statement there was a significant increase in errant reports. Using old or fabricated images with new titles has been supremely prevalent in the channels. No other Kurdish channels have been affected. NRT, one of the most prominent channels in the KRG has maintained it’s independent status and refrained from the false reports directed by the Barzani family.
The Barzani-family owned outlets have consistently published information known to be wrong. Unverified reports have also been rampant despite the very incendiary responses formulated from the reports. This has been seen by many as purposeful incitment of hatred within the region which has been acted upon. In a recent example of outright false news, Rudaw reported Qassim Soleimani inside Kirkuk city. However the same picture published was reported by Rudaw nearly a year earlier on May 2016 regarding Fallujah.
The systematic and consistent attempts in fabricating news by Rudaw and K24 alike given the order of the Barzani family has led to today’s ban on Nilesat. One Rudaw correspondent based in Washington DC used Twitter to organize an angry mob calling for the mass murder of Peshmerga soldiers as well as encouraged vigilante style attacks on members of Kurdish opposition groups after the ‘loss’ of Kirkuk. The social media site was quickly flooded with an army of trolls calling for the rape and murder of any individual who criticized KRG President Barzani whose illegal term expired two years ago. This kind of unprofessional behavior should come as no surprise to close viewers of the channel. At one point Rudaw even published an article claiming that the ISIS genocide on Yazidis in Iraq was the best thing that could have happened for the beleaguered people. This caused outrage by many observers and the Yazidi people who already felt targeted by the channels incitement. In the past, critics of Rudaw and the Barzani family, including journalists, have been killed. This left some Kurdish politicians and activists with no choice to call upon Prime Minister Haidar Al Abadi to have the channels shut down.
Reports by Rudaw border on the outlandish as seen here where they claimed Israeli and Coalition Airstrikes were pounding Iraqi forces.
A legion of social media users have been quick to negate the Barzani media network’s false reporting using Google’s reverse image search tool as well native speakers correcting intentionally mistranslated videos. As seen here in this archive. And it is not only Middle Eastern audiences that have noticed the lack of honest journalism and reporting from the Barzani mouthpieces, it has also been many Western journalists and analysts as seen here in this 2015 tweet by Mideast language expert and risk analyst Kirk Sowell. Also here, here, and here. The channel’s response has largely been to block critics. The origin of the channel and the spread of ‘media corruption’ in the KRG a term coined by Tahrir Institute Fellow Kamal Chomani can be found in in his 2012 article published in The Kurdistan Tribune.
Given the nature of the Middle East, false information purposefully designed to inflame and incite hatred is a dangerous threat and without regulations and standards there is a great risk of actions taken against already at risk civilian populations based on false media reports. Strengthening independent free media while building fact checking institutions as well as the establishment of new modern standards for journalism and media organizations would serve the MENA region well.