UNESCO Iraq office, in cooperation with FreePressUnlimted (FPU), organized a five-day study tour to The Netherlands, to learn about the platform Persveilig. This study tour comes within the context of the project Breaking the silence: Enhancing Public Accountability on Freedom of Expression and the Safety of Journalists in Iraq, funded by the Dutch government and implemented by UNESCO in Iraq with an active partnership of FPU.
Twelve participants from the Special Investigation Unit on Crimes against Journalists, and the members of the Iraqi National Committee for the Safety of Journalists, exchanged their ideas and knowledge with the Netherlands Journalists Union, National Police, Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Netherlands) and FPU.
The study tour provided the opportunity to gain first-hand knowledge and experiences to further enhance the understanding of the Iraqi National Committee for the Safety of Journalists and Combating Impunity of Persveilig, which is a common platform for a number of institutions concerned with the safety of journalists, such as the Dutch police, the Netherlands Journalists' Union, the judiciary and some civil organizations. The study tour included meetings and visits, including with the Netherlands Journalists’ Union which explained their experience in protecting journalists. The Iraqi team expressed its admiration for the Dutch experience emphasizing the need for future cooperation to strengthen the mechanism of protecting journalists in Iraq, which is in process since
The second day of the study tour was with the Representatives of the Dutch Foreign Ministry (Middle East and North Africa Policy Division, Iraq desk and Human Rights focal point) at the Foreign Ministry in The Hague. During the meeting, the two sides expressed their mutual views while the Iraqi team asked the Dutch government to support the efforts to protect journalists in Iraq and fighting impunity. Ms. Anneke Luwema, deputy head of the Middle East North Africa Department, stressed the need to protect Iraqi journalists, especially in the events that have been going on since the beginning of October 2019.
On the third day, the Iraqi team met with the assistant of the Dutch national police chief who held the Iraqi flag-raising ceremony at the Dutch police building in The Hague. The Iraqi team got acquainted with the work of Persveilig’s journalists' platform and its details. The two parties discussed all the challenges facing policemen in Iraq while providing all the protocols for this platform and possible future assistance to the Iraqi police.
The Iraqi delegation met with the Iraqi ambassador in the Netherlands and briefed him on the contents of the tour and the benefits accrued from them. The Iraqi ambassador to the Netherlands also promised to follow up on this project and provide the necessary support in coordination with the Dutch government.
The last day witnessed intensive meetings with FreePressUnlimted (FPU), focusing on cooperation frameworks in protecting journalists and combating impunity. The two sides agreed to activate cooperation in terms of FPU program in assisting journalists that are in need. Financial, health assistance and legal aid (advocacy and legal protection) were discussed in addition to the development of a mechanism to protect Iraqi journalists.
The study tour has achieved many benefits, most notably access to safety, security and protection techniques: the three Ps: Prevention, Protection, and Prosecution. The mechanisms for gathering evidence, forensic investigations and organizing the files of journalists' cases were learned by the officers present on the tour. Breaking the barrier of fear among journalists by providing a virtual electronic platform was one of the main lessons learned that the National Committee promised to implement once they return to Iraq, ensuring a safe way to record cases and report crimes against journalists.