November 19, 2007 / 9:27 AM / 12 years ago

Iraq's Kurdistan bans media from going to PKK bases

By Shamal Aqrawi and Aseel Kami

BAGHDAD, Nov 19 (Reuters) - Iraq’s northern Kurdistan region have banned journalists from travelling to Kurdish rebel bases, officials said on Monday, accusing the media of aggravating the crisis with Turkey.

Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) spokesman Jamal Abdullah said the semi-autonomous KRG would stop journalists going to Iraq’s northern border and interviewing Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) rebels who have launched attacks against Turkish soldiers.

"We will not allow journalists or the media to send any reporter ... to where the PKK are, whether on the border or the area of Qandil mountains," Abdullah said.

He said media reports had led to an "acceleration of the crisis with Turkey". "We will try in different ways to calm the situation," he said.

Turkey has massed 100,000 troops backed by tanks, artillery and planes on Iraq’s border and threatened to launch a major military operation to crush PKK fighters.

Iraqi President Jalal al-Talabani, a Kurd, said last week that a limited invasion appeared inevitable.

Abdullah denied accusations from media watchdog, the Iraqi Journalistic Freedoms Observatory, that Kurdish security forces had detained several journalists.

The Iraqi non-governmental organisation said a team working for al-Hurra television, including correspondent Ali al-Yasi, was detained in the Zakho area near the Turkish border.

It said a Japanese television reporter had also been detained in the Bativa border area but did provide any more details.

Journalists have flocked to Iraq’s northern border as tensions have grown over attacks on Turkish soldiers by PKK rebels operating from Iraq’s mountainous north.

The KRG has taken steps to block supplies to the rebels, but Ankara is pressing Iraq to do more.

The Journalistic Freedoms Observatory said in a statement that it rejected "random decisions" by the Kurdish government, adding that authorities had been "harassing" journalists and hindering their work.

The Iraqi Association of Defence of Journalists’ Rights, another non-governmental organization, said an order preventing journalists from going to border regions had been issued by the Kurdistan president’s office on Nov. 14.

Abdullah said no such order had been issued. (Reporting by Aseel Kami; Writing by Missy Ryan; Editing by Richard Balmforth)

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