New York, May 11, 2020 — Authorities in northeastern Syria should reverse their suspension of reporter Vivian Fatah’s press credentials and allow all journalists to work freely, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
Yesterday, the Autonomous Administration of Northern and Eastern Syria, the regional government, suspended Fatah’s press credentials for two months, thereby banning her from working as a journalist during that time, according to a statement by Kurdish Iraqi broadcaster Rudaw, where Fatah works as a reporter, and a copy of the suspension order posted on Rudaw’s website.
The suspension was prompted by Fatah’s use of the word “killed” rather than “martyred” when referring to fallen members of the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces during a May 7 news report, according to that statement.
“No reporter should be suspended from work over a word that is widely used around the world to describe fallen soldiers,” said CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa Representative Ignacio Miguel Delgado. “The authorities in northeastern Syria should reinstate Vivian Fatah’s press credentials immediately, and stop interfering with the workings of the press.”
In a phone interview today, Fatah told CPJ that she has been staying home since the statement was issued because she had received multiple death threats via text message and on social media.
The suspension order states that Fatah offended fallen soldiers and their families, and said that their families had filed complaints about the broadcast. It also alleges that Fatah refused to apologize for her language.
The Rudaw statement condemned the suspension, saying that referring to the soldiers as “killed” was “a journalistic phrase used in a media context far from any political motive, so it is not meant to be interpreted politically.”
Fatah told CPJ that she clarified her statements in a broadcast yesterday evening, saying, “I didn’t mean to offend anyone. I used the word ‘killed’ as a neutral word. It’s been seven years since we started using the word ‘martyred’ interchangeably with ‘they lost their lives’ or ‘killed.'”
“I didn’t mean to be insulting or disrespectful with the use of the word killed. I didn’t apologize because I have not disrespected anyone,” she added.
CPJ emailed the Media Office of the Autonomous Administration of Northern and Eastern Syria, but did not immediately receive any reply.
[Editors’ Note: This article has been changed in its eighth paragraph to correct a mistranslation of Fatah’s statement to CPJ.]