UN report says barriers to free speech remain in northeast Syria

"Shortly after, on 20 June (2021), the Kurdistan 24 television channel was shut down." 
author_image Kurdistan 24
Kurdistan 24 logo. (Photo: Kurdistan 24)
Kurdistan 24 logo. (Photo: Kurdistan 24)

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The latest report by the United Nations Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria released on Wednesday cites the ban on Kurdistan 24 as an example of the ongoing restrictions on free speech and harassment against media in northeast Syria. 

"On 16 June, a prominent journalist (Kamiran Saadoun) was arrested in Raqqah. Shortly after, on 20 June (2021), the Kurdistan 24 television channel was shut down," the report said. 

Local authorities previously shuttered Kurdistan 24's offices in northeastern Syria in September 2019, but the company was later permitted to reopen them. 

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), a leading international media rights organization, earlier called on the Kurdish-led local administration in northeastern Syria to reverse its recent June decision to close down Kurdistan 24's news bureau.

Read More: Committee to Protect Journalists calls on officials in northeast Syria to reverse Kurdistan 24 ban

The report also said that on "24 September, protesters gathered in front of the United Nations premises in Qamishli to demonstrate against the arbitrary arrests of civilians and members of the Kurdish National Council (KNC)." 

"The protesters and journalists covering the demonstration were beaten by members of the Kurdish revolutionary youth movement," it added. "Four days later, the Rudaw offices were set on fire. On 7 December, journalists, including Rudaw staff members, were briefly arrested as they were covering a demonstration against child recruitment."

The United Nations Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria said there are reasonable grounds to believe "that the Syrian Democratic Forces have continued to unlawfully deprive opposition members, civil society activists and media workers of their liberty." 

In February, Rudaw was also banned by the local authorities in northeast Syria.

The report pointed out ​​that the SDF continued to arbitrarily detain individuals belonging to, or perceived to be affiliated with, "political parties opposing the Democratic Union Party (PYD) or the self-administration, against the backdrop of continuing intra-Kurdish tensions."

The report also mentioned the death of Kurdistan Democratic Party member Amin Issa Amin, who died in Hasakah prison 13 days after being arrested in May 2021 by security forces from the autonomous administration in northeast Syria. The Kurdistan Democratic Party opposes the ruling PYD. 

The United States earlier urged an investigation into the case.

Read More: US calls for urgent investigation after Amin Issa Amin's death in Kurdish-controlled Syria

The UN said that the "Syrian Democratic Forces may have committed the war crime of cruel treatment and ill-treatment of a detainee in their custody that led to his death."