New AANES rule violates freedom of expression in Rojava: STJ
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The Syrians for Truth and Justice (STJ) human rights organization on Thursday slammed the decision made by the Department of Media of the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES) to force journalists to join the Union of Free Media/Yekîtiya Ragihandina Azad (YRA).
In mid-March 2022, the Department of Media of the AANES issued an oral decision stating that it is mandatory for journalists who wish to report in the region to join the YRA.
Officials in the AANES Department of Media responded to those who criticized the decision by saying that it is implementing regulations under the New Media Law No. 3 of 2021, approved by the General Council of the AANES on May 18, 2021.
The STJ, however, reviewed that law and said there isn't any provision requiring journalists to belong to any professional association to be allowed report in Rojava.
"The Department of Media's new requirement violates the current Media Law in Rojava and suppresses the freedom of expression of journalists and the public at large," STJ said in the report.
"In light of the above, authorities' requirement of media workers to join a certain official or private media entity is considered a monopoly over a media area and thus a violation of the right to freedom of expression of media workers and the public," it added.
According to STJ, authorities do not have the right to monopolize the media, and they are obliged to prevent and hold accountable any parties which attempt to do so.
A March UN report also said barriers to free speech persist in northeast Syria.
Read More: UN report says barriers to free speech remain in northeast Syria
The United Nations Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria report also cited the ban on Kurdistan 24 by the authorities in northeast Syria last June as an example of the ongoing restrictions on free speech and harassment against media in that region.
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," it said.