US and RSF condemn arson attack on Kurdish ARTA station

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The burned office of Radio ARTA FM in Amude city northeastern Syria. Photo: ARTA FM

ARA News 

AMUDE – The United States Embassy in Damascus on Thursday condemned the arson attack on the ARTA FM radio station in Amude, northeastern Syria. Also, the press freedom organization Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemned the attack on Friday.

“We are appalled by this attempt to silence the freedom of the press in northeast Syria, where local residents listen to ARTA FM’s daily programming about news, public service announcements and safety information, and community events,” the US embassy said in a statement.

“As we approach World Press Freedom Day next week, we commend and stand with all of Syria’s brave journalists, risking their lives every day to tell Syria’s stories and expose the truth about the Asad regime’s brutality and ISIL’s bankrupt ideology,” the embassy added.

Moreover, the RSF condemned the attack and kidnapping of it’s director Mohammed Hassan (Sefqan) on Thursday.

“Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns an attack by masked gunmen on independent radio ARTA FM and its director in Amuda, a town in the mainly Kurdish northeastern region of Syria known as Rojava, on the night of 26 April and urges the Kurdish local authorities to investigate,” the organization said.

“We ask the local authorities to conduct an independent and impartial investigation into this attack on the radio station and its director in order to bring those responsible to justice,” said Alexandra El Khazen, the head of RSF’s Middle East desk. “The local authorities have a duty to protect the work of journalists.”

Syrian Kurdish administration condemns burning of radio ARTA FM office in Amude

After growing tensions between the rival Kurdish parties, the local office of a Kurdish party and an independent radio station were burned. The local authorities have ordered the Kurdish security police of Asayish to investigate the incidents. 

The local building of the Kurdish National Council (KNC) in Girkê Legê‎ was burned on 24 April, and the independent radio station ARTA FM was burned on Tuesday night with its executive director Sefqan Orkesh being threatened to death if he would not stop the radio broadcasting. 

The KNC in northern Syria has called for protests after the burning of ARTA FM, and blamed the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and the local administration, which denied any involvement in the incidents, and condemned them.

“We will not be intimidated by these cowardly acts and stop our work to strengthen free, independent media in the region. However, we also do not want to put our staff at risk,” Sirwan H. Hossein, ARTA FM’s founder and General Director said in a press statement.

“We demand that the Auto-Administration authorities immediately open a serious, independent investigation and punish those responsible for this crime. We also demand that serious measures are taken to protect media workers, civil society activists and civilians in general. That is what the People’s Protection Units (YPG) are supposed to be there for,” he added.  

Aldar Xelil, one of the most powerful Kurdish politicians in the reigon and a leading member of the Democratic Society Movement in Syria (TEV-DEM) condemned the incident of the burning of the KNC office.

“The KNC office in Girkê Legê‎ was burned down by unknown assailants late night on 24.04.2016 and the task rests with the democratic Auto-administration and in particular the Asayish to investigate the matter and hold the criminals responsible because the protection of personal safety and property of the citizens in the region is our responsibility,“ he said in a public statement. 

Local authorities of the Kurdish-led Auto-Administration also condemned the incident, and considered the incident as an attempt to tarnish the image of the administration after the heavy clashes happened last week between the Syrian regime militias and the Kurdish forces of the Asayish and YPG, that killed dozens of people.

The burning of the ARTA office came one night before a mass ceremony for the 35 Kurdish fighters and civilians killed in clashes with the Syrian regime. 

“We see ourselves as responsible to run the administration and protect our areas, and we ordered the responsible bodies to promptly investigate it and expose this criminal act against the media in Rojava, and arrest and put the criminals on trial in public,” the local administration said.

Reporting by: Wladimir van Wilgenburg 

Source: ARA News 

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