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Saturday, June 25, 2022

Mandatory union membership adds to barriers, say media in northeastern Syria

A new requirement that journalists in northeastern Syria join an official union to obtain press credentials is seen by critics as an attempt to regulate and restrict the region’s media.

Under this measure, all journalists working as fixers for foreign media must become members of the Union of Free Media (YRA) before the credential is approved.

Reporters need credentials to work or travel to certain locations, particularly areas once occupied by Islamic State militants.

The Kurdish-led Autonomous Administration of North and Eastern Syria (AANES), also known as Rojwa, which controls the northeast, announced the changes in April, saying the need was to support better journalism standards and Will promote

But local journalists have warned that it could allow officials to limit media in the area. He points out that a media law passed last year made no such demand.

Concerns were also raised that the ruling could give authorities the power to determine who is or is not a journalist. Prospective members of the YRA – which was established nearly 10 years ago as the region gained autonomy from Damascus – must meet the union’s criteria, including two years of professional experience.

Journalists in the region already run the risk of harassment, arrest or harassment if they report critically to the authorities or the regional security force, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). Some, such as Iraqi Kurdish broadcaster Rudaw, have had their licenses revoked over coverage that the authorities instigated.

And while the YRA describes itself as an independent syndicate whose senior leadership is elected, journalists and observers see it largely as close to local authorities.

VOA contacted the AANES media office for comment on the new requirements, but did not receive a response.

media standard

Since the decision came into force, journalists have spoken of delays and confusion. Some said that their applications were pending even after being denied membership of the Sangh.

A reporter for an international news outlet said that when they attempted to renew the license earlier in May, AANES said membership of the union was a precondition.

The journalist, who spoke with the VOA on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal, said he felt he had no choice but to apply for membership, and that final approval was still pending.

A media law adopted last year did not include any provision requiring journalists to be union membership. Because of that, the journalist said that he considers the new measure a violation of the law.

YRA co-president Malwa Ali confirmed that membership in their organization is now a requirement to earn the credential, but YRA had no role in the decision.

“We don’t have the authority to do that,” she told VOA from Kamishli in Syria. “The Autonomous Administration is the executive body in this area, and we cannot interfere with their decisions.”

Ali sees the move as an effort by local authorities to reform journalistic practices in a region embroiled in several conflicts.

“We are receiving constant threats from Daesh (Islamic State), Turkey and other actors who want to destabilize our governing experiment,” she said. “Therefore, there has to be a way to keep the standards of journalism high so that not everyone is able to exploit journalism for malicious purposes.”

Ali said the association’s requirement for journalism experience is to ensure that “only competent and genuine journalists are admitted to the union, which will reflect positively on the overall media environment.”

But some local media outlets see forced subscriptions as a problem.

Arta FM manager Sherin Ibrahim said, “All over the world, joining trade syndicates and unions is a voluntary act. So we cannot force our employees to join the Union of Free Media.” (Arta FM is an affiliate of VOA’s Kurdish service).

Ibrahim said he hoped regional officials would drop the union’s requirement.

“It (the new provision) will affect the work of our journalists and other staff members who travel between cities,” she said. “Arta has been around for 10 years, and our continued work and popularity with listeners is a testament to our professionalism. So, why should there be a syndicate determining if we are good journalists?”

Another journalist said the requirement that everyone working in the media apply for credentials could also affect foreign news coverage.

While international journalists operate under a separate media permit in Syria, the new law will affect local journalists and fixers, whom many foreign workers rely on.

“It’s a pure security measure,” said Kamiran Sadoun, a Syrian journalist who assisted international news crews covering the Northeast for many years.

“With such a ridiculous decision, they not only want to ban local journalists and media outlets, but they also want to ensure that those who aid foreign news outlets are also under investigation,” said Saudou. told VOA.

Sadoun, who is currently in Prague for a scholarship, said, “[Authorities] Clearly told me several times over the years that he did not like some of the reports prepared by foreign journalists whom I had assisted. They cannot tolerate critical reporting by journalists that they cannot control, so they intimidate local fixers who work with such journalists.

Sadoun was arrested twice in 2021 while working as a fixer. Security in Raqqa briefly detained him in June 2021 when he was with a Dutch reporter. In February 2021, he was arrested at a checkpoint and held for two days.

Syria ranks 171 out of 180 countries, with 1 being the most free, According to the 2022 Press Freedom IndexAnnual ranking of countries produced by Reporters Without Borders.

This article is republished from – Voa News – Read the – original article.

World Nation News Desk
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