Wave of Kurdish arrests of Syrian journalists
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is alarmed by an increase in arrests of journalists by the Syrian Democratic Forces, the Kurdish-led coalition of militias that controls part of northern Syria. The SDF has arrested three reporters in the past few weeks, RSF said, calling for the release of those still held.
The latest victim is Ahmad Soufi, a reporter for the Kurdish TV channel ARK TV, who was arrested at a checkpoint near the village of Banah Qasr, in Hasakah province, on 1 March. It is not yet known why he was arrested or where he is being held. According to the Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR), his family has been notified of his arrest but has not been able to talk to him because his phone has been confiscated.
Soufi was the third journalist to be arrested by Kurdish forces in the space of five weeks. According to the Euphrates Post news site, the photographer Ali Saleh Al-Wakka was arrested by the SDF on 5 February after questioning the coordinator of a US-led international delegation while he was covering its visit to a hospital being rebuilt in Hajin, a town in Deir ez-Zor province. His family has had no news of him since then and the reason for his arrest is still unknown.
Freelance reporter Fanar Mahmoud Tami was arrested by Kurdish forces in the city of Qamishli on 25 January after posting criticism of the SDF on Facebook. His family said he was captured by masked men who took him away in a jeep. He was finally released without any explanation on 11 February.
“The increase in arrests in the Kurdish zone in recent weeks is concerning,” said Sabrina Bennoui, the head of RSF’s Middle East desk. “And it’s all the more worrying because the arrests often take the form of enforced disappearances for no clear reason and without the families being notified. We call for the release of all reporters currently held by the authorities.”
Syria is ranked 174th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2020 World Press Freedom Index.