US Appoints journalist as Kurdistan Region's Consul General

Reports 01:01 PM - 2023-08-25
 U.S. Concul General Mark Straw. PUKMEDIA

U.S. Concul General Mark Straw.

The US Journalists Kurdistan Region

The U.S. chose a journalist to serve as its consul general in the Kurdistan Region, but when he arrived, the news of the kidnapping of three journalists in Duhok and Erbil, the massive protests calling for journalists' release in Badinan, and the strike of an imprisoned journalist were the most hotly debated press freedom issues of the day.

The new U.S. CG in the Kurdistan Region is Mark Stroh. He is both a journalist and a diplomat, and he is currently in Erbil where "several cases of assassination, kidnapping, the imprisonment of journalists, and restrictions on freedoms" have been witnessed which has raised concerns and condemnations both domestically and internationally. These incidents peaked during the Kurdistan Regional Government's (KRG) ninth cabinet, when the former U.S. CG was forced to delete a comment and falsely charged with many offenses, depriving him of his right to free speech.


Mark Stroh: Freedom of expression should not be restricted

During their first official meeting, Qubad Talabani, the Deputy Prime Minister, and the new CG discussed "freedom of the press". This topic is seen as a message that will preserve the freedoms and rights of journalists and will keep an eye out for violations.

They also underlined the need for a stronger, more professional connection between political authorities and the media in order to ensure that the Region does not fall behind in terms of freedom of expression and the press.


U.S. is monitoring freedom in the region

The U.S. wants to send a message to the Kurdish Prime Minister by appointing a journalist as the U.S. representative in the Kurdistan Region.

Karwan Anwar, Secretary of the Kurdistan Journalists' Union (KUJ)-Sulaymaniyah Branch, told PUKMEDIA that the U.S. is closely monitoring freedom of expression in the Kurdistan Region and sending a journalist consul to the region will affect the decline.

"Freedom in the Kurdistan Region has become an important issue not only for the U.S. but also for Europe and Britain as several international reports have previously mentioned the decline of journalism in the region which has tarnished the region's reputation," Anwar said.

“There is a specific purpose behind the appointment of a journalist as the U.S. representative in the Kurdistan Region," he continued. "The Prime Minister should understand this message and work on improving the freedom of expression and journalism in the region."


International organizations talk about the decline of journalists' rights

Several journalists have been tried and punished under party pressure and under different laws. Several international organizations have warned the KRG against this decline and called it an ugly act, including Amnesty International which has accused KRG of violating the rights of journalists. UN Secretary-General's Special Representative for Iraq Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, former U.S. Consul General in Erbil Irvin Hicks, the U.S. State Department and several international organizations such as UN Human Rights Watch have previously published reports and interviews on human rights violations in the Kurdistan Region, citing party interference in the courts in Erbil and Duhok as the main reason for the violations.

There is a significant decline in freedom of expression and journalism in the yellow zone, especially during the KRG's ninth cabinet. Three journalists have been abducted in Duhok and Erbil in the past two days. This has once again affected the reputation of the Kurdistan Region and has caused concern among Kurds' allies, who have repeatedly warned the ninth cabinet on this issue.


Mark Stroh's biography

Before serving in the U.S. State Department, Stroh worked as a reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer from 2000-2002. He holds a bachelor's degree in history and political science and a master's degree in journalism.

Prior to his new position, Mark Stroh served as US Consul General in Karachi, Pakistan, acting Assistant Secretary and Director of International Media Management at the Office of Global Public Affairs in Washington, and as Director of Strategic Communications and Assistant Press Secretary on the Executive Secretariat staff. His last position was as deputy spokesman of the National Security Council (NSC).


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