Practical info for foreign journalists

European citizens are granted 15-day tourist visas upon arrival in KRG. Theoretically, this permit needs to be renewed if one's stay exceeds 10 days, but in practice you're generally allowed to stay for the whole granted period without visiting the Directorate of Residence. It is advisable to consult local authorities as this might be subject to change, especially in light of the ongoing conflict. Print journalists can easily work without applying for a press visa, but this might prove helpful if they happen to be questioned by authorities about their work in KRG. A different procedure is required for cameramen who need to register their equipment. European journalists are currently granted a 30-day visa when they apply via the Department of Foreign Relations.

The situation is quite different in the rest of Iraq, since it is not possible to obtain the visa via the KRG consulate and it is mandatory to apply from one's country of residence and fill in a specific form; this can be done via email but visas need to be collected in person. At the moment, in the context of the war on IS, it is possible to arrive in the KRG and apply for a permit from the Kurdish security forces (Asayish) and the Iraqi federal police to travel as south as Kirkuk and Mosul. However, relationships between Baghdad and KRG are subject to unexpected shifts due to the wide range of disputed issues, so it is always advisable to check with the Iraqi Embassy if having visited KRG might represent a problem to gain access to Iraq and vice versa.

In Iraq, the CMC requires foreign journalists to register themselves and their equipment before being allowed into Iraq via Baghdad airport; it's the only way to obtain a multiple-entry visa, while single entry visas might be issued without registering with the CMC. Waiting times for registration vary between 3 and 6 weeks. The requirements are subject to short-notice changes so it is always advisable to verify with local Iraqi embassies.

The Foreign Press Beirut Google group is also a good source for information that are relevant to foreign journalists working in Iraq, as Lebanon-based media staff are regularly dispatched also to Iraq. Most of the information contained here has been actually a topic of conversation with regular updates in the Google group. It is enough to present one's credentials as a journalist to join the group. For those who work with fixers and translators, the group is also a useful resource for networking, as journalists tend to recommend the fixers they worked with.

Although the security situation has deteriorated in Iraqi Kurdistan over the last years, the region remains much safer than the rest of Iraq and a foreign journalist can move around quite freely without any specific precaution (with the exception of Kirkuk, which has been recently de facto annexed by the KRG, and where clashes are recurrent and there is the risk of kidnappings). The situation is much more volatile in Iraq, and even some Arab citizens prefer to be escorted while traveling around, not only in Baghdad, but also in the southern regions (here suicidal attacks are not frequent, unlike in the capital, but one faces the risk of kidnappings and armed confrontations between militias).

In Iraqi Kurdistan, if one is planning to conduct interviews with the Kurdish youth, they should be bear in mind that most of them do not speak Arabic (and English is not particularly widespread), as Kurdish is the official language of most school curricula. Older generations (and, obviously, politicians) tend to speak Arabic, but that should not be taken for granted.