IN OTHER WORDS: Jailing a critic

Kurdistan is one of Iraq’s most prosperous and westernised regions. And, thanks to an American military shield, it got a 12-year head start on the post-Saddam era. Kurdistan’s leaders ought to be setting a good example for the rest of Iraq in expanding the boundaries of political criticism. Instead they are making an example of a Kurdish journalist who dared to criticise leaders of the inaptly named Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and its secret police, the Parastin.

Kamal Sayid Qadir has been a harsh and persistent critic of the powerful Barzani family, which runs the KDP, and through it, the western part of Kurdistan, like a family fiefdom. But these journalistic excesses are not unheard of in the rest of the world and are certainly no justification for the 30-year jail sentence he is now serving. Qadir is not

the only Kurdish journalist to complain of intimidation by the KDP’s secret police. And there have been problems elsewhere as well. Two journalists face prison terms in east central Iraq for criticising a provincial governor. In the south, fundamentalist Shiite militias enforce their own version of Islamic mores with the full support of local governmental authorities.

Iraq’s leaders have no legitimate reason to fear an uninhibited press. But Iraqis have reason to worry about leaders who lock up their critics. — International Herald Tribune