Last month Kurdish authorities in Syria, belonging to the People’s Protection Units (YPG), closed K24’s two offices in northeast Syria and withdrew the company’s license to operate there. Numerous press freedom watchdogs have protested the decision. It appears to be part of an increasingly repressive regime that, unfortunately, the YPG is expanding in northeast Syria. Karim calls on the US, and other western countries, to ensure that the basic human rights of the population, as well as the press, are respected. As a board member for the Club of the Association of Foreign Press Correspondents in the USA (AFPC-USA Club), I spoke with Mohammed Karim, General Manager of Kurdistan 24 about this situation.
Can you explain why the Kurdistan24 offices in Rojava have been shut down?
The unbiased and professional work of Kurdistan24 within the framework of the standard media rules has had a huge influence on people because the contents of Kurdistan24 coverage were always in the interests of truth and people. Fighting corruption, human rights violations, extremism, poverty, and refugee situations are the core responsibility and obligations of Kurdistan24. Any institution responsible for the closure of Kursdistan24 offices in Northern Syria is not satisfied with the fast and precise coverage of Kurdistan24 in Rojava.
What is the scope of Kurdistan24 in Rojava and why are reopening Kurdistan24 offices important?
Kurdistan24 has two branches, Kobane and Qamishli. Our journalists always reported on key events, for instance: our media coverage of the Turkish army invasion of Afrin was essential by sending the images of war, violence, and suffering of Rojava people to the international community. During the Turkish offensive media coverage, Kurdistan24's live videos and images became sources for international media agencies. Kurdistan24’s direct and influential reporting from the heart of Aleppo and Idlib warfare in the fight against ISIS was overwhelmingly supported by the Kurdish community.
Based on your explanation above, what are the negative consequences of Kurdistan24 closure in Rojava?
Kurdistan24 wants to have free and rapid access to information in order to provide up-to-date knowledge to the widest possible Kurdish population in the region. Due to the Kurdistan24 shut down in Rojava, we are no longer able to work. The result is a very large number of people have no idea what is going on in northern and eastern Syria.
How were the internal, regional, and international reactions to the Kurdistan24 closure in Rojava?
Reactions were swift and furious. The International Federation of Journalists, Reporters Without Borders, Kurdistan Journalists Syndicate in Kurdistan Region and Syria, Syrian Journalists Network, Metro Center, and other organizations for media freedom, as well as academics and journalists in different countries, raised their voices and condemned the decision of the Democratic Union Party in northern Syria to close Kurdistan24 offices without justifiable cause.
How is the situation of the Kurdistan24 team(staff) in Rojava?
They are unable to work and they remain under security observations.
What are your demands on Rojava authorities, media defenders, and freedom of expression organizations?
We respectfully request support from media defenders’ organizations. We request Rojava authorities to reconsider their non-democratic decisions and allow us to work freely again.
Rahim Rashidi (Mr.Kurd) is the bureau chief for Kurdistan24 and reporter for Kurdistan TV and Zagros Arabic. He is a board member with the Club of the Association of Foreign Press Correspondents in the USA. Rahim fled from Iran in 1996 to seek support from the Kurdistan Regional Government, under the Islamic Republic of Iran. In the year 2000, he left for Turkey and obtained a visa to travel abroad to Sweden. He settled in Sweden from the year 2002-2006, then re-settled in Paris, France till the year 2010, when he finally moved to the United States. Within a decade of his career abroad in the United States, Rahim Rashidi has worked with several media outlets and supported the Kurdistan Regional Government, through his journalism. He also writes poetry in the Kurdish language. His poetry is published in Kurdish newspapers and magazines. Mr. Kurd is an active member of the Gold Institute for international strategy. When he participated in one of President Trump’s press conferences he was prompted to “Go ahead Mr. Kurd!” by President Donald Trump. It was a very proud moment for him and his ethnicity to be recognized by the President of the United States of America.