Washington, D.C., February 22, 2022 – Authorities in northern Syria should immediately release Ahmed Sofi, Dara Abdo, and all other members of the press detained for their work, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Tuesday.
On Saturday, February 19, forces affiliated with the Democratic Party Union, the political party in power in the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria’s regional government, arrested Sofi and Abdo at their homes in Al-Hasaka governorate, according to multiple reports by their employer, ARK TV.
Sofi works as a correspondent for ARK TV’s parent company the ARK Media Foundation, and Abdo works as a correspondent for ARK TV and Radio Rêbaz, according to those reports. ARK TV and Radio Rêbaz both are Iraqi-based broadcasters affiliated with the Kurdistan Democratic Party-Syria opposition party.
Authorities have not disclosed where the journalists are being held or the reasons for their arrests, according to those reports and KDP-S media director Khalid Ali, who spoke to CPJ in a phone interview.
Security forces previously detained ARK TV correspondent Sabri Fakhri and Yeketi Media reporter Bawar Malla Ahmad on February 5, as CPJ documented at the time. According to a Facebook post by his father, Ahmed was released on February 9. CPJ was unable to determine Fakhri’s status.
“Authorities in northern Syria must release journalists Ahmed Sofi and Dara Abdo immediately, as well as all other journalists being held for their work,” said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour. “The Democratic Party Union must allow the press to work freely, and ensure that political differences do not result in the harassment and detention of journalists and their families.”
Ali told CPJ that masked uniformed men raided Abdo’s home in the city of Al-Hasaka, and another group raided Sofi’s home in the village of Bana Qasr. The security forces arrested Abdo at his home, but Sofi was not at the scene, so they detained his son, which prompted Sofi to surrender himself in exchange for his son’s release, according to those ARK TV reports.
Ali referred to their detentions as “kidnapping,” saying he was not aware of any court order calling for the journalists’ arrests.
When CPJ called Kanaan Barakat, the co-chair of the Jazira region Interior Ministry, which covers Al-Hasaka governorate, he said that ARK TV and Radio Rêbaz both “have no license and can’t work in our region.”
He also accused both outlets of publishing “misinformation” and trying to “stir up discord and temptation.”
When CPJ called Riyad Yousif, co-chair of the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria’s Information Department, he said that he did not have any information on the journalists’ arrests “because those media outlets and their staff are not registered in our department.”
Ali told CPJ that he believed “authorities want to silence every different and free voice,” and said that the reporters were only trying to cover the realities of life in the region, “which are deteriorating in terms of freedom of speech and media.”