Condemnation of Hay’at Tahrir al Sham’s Ban on Orient Media Group Operating in Areas Under Its Control

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Paris – Syrian Network for Human Rights:

On Saturday, October 1, 2022, the General Media Administration section of the Salvation Government affiliated with Hay’at Tahrir al Sham (HTS) notified the Orient Media Group’s correspondents in the areas under HTS control in Idlib governorate that all Orient personnel would henceforth be banned from working in all areas under HTS’ control, citing HTS’ its objection to Orient’s editorial policy.

This decision followed negotiations between the Salvation Government’s General Media Administration and Orient’s correspondents in the area, through which HTS attempted to force its conditions on Orient. As a result of the failure of these negotiations, HTS’ media wing issued a statement, which said:
“The Orient channel is completely prohibited from working [in areas under HTS control]; all correspondents and collaborators, and anyone who sends materials to the channel in twisted ways will be held judicially responsible and will face legal and security consequences. They must also hand over their press IDs issued by the Directorate of Media Affairs if they have any relation to Orient, whether as a reporter, cameraman, or collaborator. Orient’s equipment in Idlib is to be handed over to anyone the channel’s management chooses.”

A few days before the ban, on September 28, 2022, the Salvation Government’s General Media Administration issued a statement accusing Orient of siding with foreign agendas and following the methods of counter-revolutionary propaganda.

SNHR documented previously that the Orient Media Foundation was subjected to a similar decision on August 24, 2021, aimed at stopping its work. The foundation received a communication from an HTS official stating that the institution must stop its work in areas under HTS’ control. The institution’s correspondents received the same communication via Abu Ahmed Khattab, the head of HTS’ media relations wing at the time, following a series of reports by Orient in which it criticized the practices of both Hay’at Tahrir al Sham and the Syrian National Army, and described them as militias.

Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham has restricted the work of media institutions, their employees, and citizen journalists in areas under the group’s control, through instituting practices that seek to limit freedom of opinion, expression and the press, imposing a type of restrictive guardianship and control over the work of media institutions, in an effort to control editorial policy, which empties news media work of its content. These practices are similar to the repressive methods of the Syrian regime in banning all independent local, regional and international media outlets, either restricting them, controlling what is issued by them, or expelling and banning them. These practices in various Syrian regions have made Syria one of the worst countries in the world in terms of freedom of the press, and freedom of opinion and expression.

The Syrian Network for Human Rights unequivocally condemns the measures taken by Hay’at Tahrir al Sham against the Orient Media Foundation and all violations against media workers and centers in all regions. SNHR stresses the need to reverse these repressive and arbitrary measures, and allow freedom for media work without any censorship, guardianship or threat. SNHR calls for the repeal of all “security decisions” that suppress freedom of opinion and expression, as well as for a pledge to protect Syrian and foreign journalists and provide various forms of support and assistance.