ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Kurdish authorities in northeast Syria have barred Rudaw correspondent Vivian Fatah from reporting for a period of two months, alleging she “offended martyrs and their families” in her recent news coverage.
The Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (NES) issued an order on Sunday temporarily revoking Fatah’s press credentials.
“According to the media laws in northern and eastern Syria, the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria decided to suspend the license of Rudaw Media Network’s reporter, journalist Vivian Fatah, for two months and prevent her from conducting any journalism work,” the order read.
“She has been suspended after she offended martyrs and their families with her comments in one of her news reports,” the order added, claiming NES authorities had received complaints.
The families allegedly accused Fatah of offending the memory of fallen Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) personnel by reporting them “killed” rather than “martyred” – a term with strong religious and political significance which is rarely used in news reporting.
More than 10,000 SDF fighters died in the battle to defeat the Islamic State group (ISIS) in northern Syria.
Fatah produced the report in question on Thursday about the ongoing negotiations between the Democratic Union Party (PYD), which controls northeast Syria, and the Syrian Kurdish National Council (ENKS), which is backed by the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.
The reconciliation process designed to unify the Kurds in Syria is supported by the US-led coalition and by Syrian-regime backer Russia.
Rudaw Media Network released a statement on Sunday rejecting the NES accusations.
“The decision is contrary to the real understanding of media work and against the principles of freedom of the press. The justification in the order, and the accusations against Vivian Fatah for insulting the martyrs, has no valid basis,” the statement reads.
“Anyone familiar with the work of journalists and who watches Vivian Fatah’s report on Rudaw TV … 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 statement reads.
Rudaw also pointed out in its statement that Fatah herself is the daughter of a martyr killed in a terrorist attack.
“While we call for the cancelation of this decision, we see this decision as defamation and disdain for the work of our colleague Vivian Fatah, and free and independent journalism in general,” Rudaw’s statement added.
Kurds in Syria were politically and culturally marginalized for decades. However, the eruption of civil war in 2011 gave them an opportunity to declare a self-governed autonomous region in the north and expand it eastward for the first time in Syrian history.
The Kurdish-controlled region is traditionally known to Kurds as Rojava. It is dominated by the PYD, which was founded in 2003.
The NES is widely seen as progressive in its approach to ethnic and religious minority groups and women’s rights, and is generally welcoming to local and international media workers.