ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – The Rudaw Media Network has strongly condemned the ban imposed Tuesday on its journalists in Cizire canton in the ethnically Kurdish area of northern Syria known as Rojava by the area's governing Democratic Union Party (PYD).
In a statement also released Tuesday, Rudaw called the ban "wrong and anti-democratic," explaining that "Rudaw’s journalist teams have always been committed to the journalism laws issued by the administration of Rojava cantons."
“Sadly, the world and Kurdistan are concerned over the narrowing of free media and journalism in [Cizire] canton and other cantons of Rojava,” read the Rudaw statement.
Rudaw also blasted the treatment of its reporters and news teams in the area.
“In the past, many Rudaw journalists who are from Rojava have been arrested and evicted from their homes. [Local authorities] have always hampered Rudaw’s coverage from the PYD cantons, but despite this Rudaw journalists have never reacted in an unprofessional manner,” the Rudaw announcement read.
The PYD, which has close links to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), explained the move as a reaction to Rudaw's alleged provocation of "hostility among the Kurdish nation, and against our martyrs and state apparatus."
The PYD statement also said “Rudaw provokes violence and creates tension," as well as "spreading prejudice,"
The Rudaw statement denied the allegations and defended its operations in Rojava.
"[Rudaw teams] have been more professional than the PYD and PKK media in covering the latest incidents in Rojava, and that is why Rudaw is considered as the most popular media by the people of Rojava. Rudaw has kept a balance between positive and negative developments in that part of Kurdistan,” added the statement.
Rudaw pointed to its coverage of the battle for border town of Kobani, saying its journalists were able to bring the story to the world's most-powerful decision makers.
"It was Rudaw’s tireless efforts that led the world to make historical decisions related to Kobani. While Rudaw was covering Kobani, the PYD was trying to deter Rudaw teams from working in the area," the statement read.
The statement added that by banning Rudaw and its global network, the people of Cizire canton will be voiceless.
"We are waiting for the PYD in Cizire canton to reconsider the ban and let Rudaw teams start working there again because free speech gives the young generation of western Kurdistan hope for a free life," the statement read.
Rudaw called on international organizations, especially journalist rights groups, to put pressure on the PYD to provide an appropriate climate for journalists to carry out their work away from fear and intimidation.
Rudaw urged the PYD to stop limiting the free press, which makes people feel like "they live in a place like North Korea."