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Syrian Kurdish authorities ban journalist who 'offended martyrs'

Syrian Kurdish authorities consider the Rudaw network to be biased [Rudaw/YouTube]

Date of publication: 11 May, 2020

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Rudaw reporter Vivian Fatah has been banned from reporting for two months after she said Syrian Kurdish fighters were 'killed' rather than 'martyred'.
Syrian Kurdish authorities on Sunday barred a Kurdish journalist from reporting for two months after she was accused of "offending martyrs and their families" who fought in the campaign against the Islamic State group.

Vivian Fatah, a correspondent for Iraqi Kurdistan-based media network Rudaw, drew the ire of authorities after referring to fallen Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters as having been "killed" rather than "martyred".

Media supportive of the Syrian Kurdish authorities and affiliated fighting forces, including the SDF and the People's Protective Units (YPG), traditionally refer to killed fighters as "martyrs".

The Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria, also known as Rojava, issued on order on Sunday temporarily revoking Fatah's press credentials after complaints from the families of fallen fighters, Rudaw reported.

"She has been suspended after she offended martyrs and their families with her comments in one of her news reports," the order read, referring to a report by Fatah last week about negotiations between the governing Democratic Union Party (PYD) and the Iraqi Kurdish-backed Syrian Kurdish National Council (ENKS).

The Rudaw Media Network slammed the move as an act of "defamation and distain" against both Fatah and "free and independent journalism".

"The justification in the order, and the accusations against Vivian Fatah for insulting the martyrs, has no valid basis," Rudaw said in a statement on Sunday.

"Anyone familiar with the work of journalists... knows that what she said is only a journalistic phrase used in a media context far from any political motive, so it is not meant to be interpreted politically," the media network added.

Rudaw, which publishes online in English, Turkish, Arabic and two Kurdish dialects, was temporarily barred from reporting by Syrian Kurdish authorities in 2014 and 2016. Officials accused the network of "provoking violence" and "spreading prejudice".

Critics consider the network to be biased in support of Nechirvan Barzani, the president of the autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan Region, and his ruling Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) with which the Syrian Kurdish authorities have deeply strained relations.

An Iraqi Kurdistan-based broadcaster with ties to the ruling Barzani clan, Kurdistan24, has also previously been dealt with a ban on reporting by Syrian Kurdish authorities.

Despite endorsing press freedom and freedom of speech in their constitution, the Syrian Kurdish authorities have been accused of routinely interfering with the work of critical news outlets and detaining journalists.

"Journalists are sometimes subjected to harassment and [rights] violations by some institutions and agencies in the self-administrating [Kurdish] areas, despite the fact [the authorities] are trying to be more open to the media," the Northern Syria-based Free Press Union said on World Press Freedom Day, which took place earlier this month.


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