Syria : RSF condemns attack by gunmen on Syrian community radio station and its executive director

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns an attack by masked gunmen on independent radio ARTA FM and its director in Amuda, a town in the mainly Kurdish northeastern region of Syria known as Rojava, on the night of 26 April and urges the Kurdish local authorities to investigate.

After ambushing ARTA FM director Mohamed Hassan (also known as Sefqan) as he returned home, the gunmen took him to the town cemetery, interrogated him, and threatened to kill him if he did not stop broadcasting.

They then went to the radio station and set fire to it, destroying some of the equipment, before making their escape. The fire was put out after the arrival of the police and the Kurdish security forces (Asayesh).

“We ask the local authorities to conduct an independent and impartial investigation into this attack on the radio station and its director in order to bring those responsible to justice,” said Alexandra El Khazen, the head of RSF’s Middle East desk. “The local authorities have a duty to protect the work of journalists.”

Despite the damage and the ransacking of some of its equipment, the radio continues to broadcast via the Nilesat satellite and to post news reports on its Facebook page.

Hassan has filed a complaint with the police and has requested an investigation. He told RSF that the station will continue to broadcast news reports and that “it belongs to no political faction, just to the people.” He added that it was the target of local harassment and that its main support came from international organizations.

The Democratic Union Party (PYD), which is the main Syrian Kurdish party and which controls this part of Syria, condemned the attack yesterday and called for a rapid investigation.

Journalists are often subject to threats, arrest or even abduction by the Kurdish security forces in Rojava, while the media are also sometimes censored by the local authorities.

Rudaw TV, a Kurdish TV channel based in Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, and Orient TV, a Syrian opposition TV channel, were banned in August 2015 by the authorities in the Jezireh district of Rojava, who accused them of broadcasting false information and encouraging violence and discord. The same two TV channels were also banned in Kobane in February 2016.

Because of the differences between the Kurdish authorities in Rojava and the Kurdish authorities in Iraqi Kurdistan, media outlets and journalists on either side are subject to the same difficulties, including arrest, threats and censorship.

Syria is ranked 177th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2016 World Press Freedom Index.

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Updated on 29.04.2016