SDF denies involvement in arrest of three journalists in Syria
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The Office of Media and Information of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) on Thursday denied that the force was involved in the recent arrest of three journalists in northern Syria.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said on Monday that it was “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.”
RSF claimed that the SDF had arrested three journalists, including Ahmad Soufi, a reporter for the Kurdish TV channel ARK TV, on March 1, and the photographer Ali Saleh Al-Wakka on February 5.
Kurdish journalist Soufi was arrested at a checkpoint near the village of Banah Qasr, in Hasakah province for unknown reasons. “It is not yet known why he was arrested or where he is being held,” RSF said.
According to the watchdog, Al-Wakka was arrested after questioning the coordinator of a US-led international delegation while he was covering its visit to a hospital project in Hajin, a town in Deir al-Zor province.
“His family has had no news of him since then and the reason for his arrest is still unknown,” the RSF report said.
Kurdish activist and freelance reporter Fanar Mahmoud Tami was arrested by security forces in Qamishli on January 25 after posting critical posts of the SDF on Facebook. He was released on February 11.
At the time, the Kurdish National Council criticized the arrest of Mahmoud and seven teachers by the Kurdish Internal Security Forces in northeast Syria, also known as Asayish.
The SDF said on Thursday that as a military force it is not “for public law enforcement and is not authorized to take legal action against individuals.”
“Legal action concerning individuals in NES [northeast Syria] falls under the responsibility of judicial and law enforcement institutions and Internal Security Forces (Asayish) of the Autonomous Administration,” the force said, referring to the Kurdish-led civilian administration that governs the parts of northeast Syria where the journalists were arrested.
“Our forces are neither responsible, associated or involved in the claims of arrests as mentioned by Reporters Without Borders,” the SDF concluded.
“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.”
Editing by Joanne Stocker-Kelly