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Concerns raised over press freedom in SDF-controlled areas of northern Syria

CONCERNS have been raised over the continued clampdown on press freedom in areas of Syria controlled by Kurdish-led forces after five journalists were reportedly detained on Saturday. 

According to Raqqa-based journalist Hussam Hammoud, the journalists hauled in by the Syrian Democratic Forces included those working for Kurdish media agencies North Press and Hawar Agency (ANHA). 

Others were from institutions from the self-styled Autonomous Area of North East Syria (AANES) 

They were named as Abd al-Karim al-Rahil, a former correspondent for the Raqqa Civil Council; Ruba al-Ali, a former ANHA correspondent; Batul al-Hassan from the Media Organisation for a Better Tomorrow and Khaled al-Hassan, a media official for the education committee of the Raqqa Civil Council.

Ms Ali and Ms Hassan were reportedly released late on Saturday following angry protests. 

The SDF was contacted for comment, although had not responded by the time the Morning Star published this piece.

It has so far failed to respond to questions over the detention of Syrian journalist Mohammad al-Saghir who has been held by the Kurdish-led forces since 2019.

Fears were raised over the al-Ikhbariyah news channel correspondent’s health after he started a hunger strike last week in protest against his treatment. 

Global unions have demanded his immediate release and said that the SDF must allow media workers to operate in areas under its control free from fear, intimidation and arbitrary arrest. 

Mr Saghir’s family says he has suffered a number of strokes since being detained amid allegations that he has been tortured in custody. 

Colleagues believe he is being held for reporting on the theft of wheat from the SDF-controlled region by the organisation’s US allies. 

Thousands of tonnes of grain and other resources, including oil, are stolen from the region every week and taken across the border into Iraq via an illegal crossing. 

Syrians face food shortages and medicines due to the US-imposed Caesar Act sanctions, which have been described by President Bashar al-Assad as a form of economic warfare. 

ANHA and North Press had not reported on the detentions nor commented when by the time the Star published this piece.

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