March 2017 Violations... Six media activists killed and the regime at the biggest violator

The different sides fighting in Syria continue to commit violations against journalists and media professionals. The Syrian Center for Journalistic Freedoms in the Syrian Journalistic Association documented 26 violations during March 2017. The violations are a minimal decrease from the number of violations documented during February 2017. The decrease comes despite the escalating military operations between the opposition and the regime forces especially in the capital Damascus and Hama's north western countryside towards the end of March 2017.

The Syrian regime takes the lead for the number of violations committed against media professionals with six documented violations. The Syrian regime is followed by Russia which entered the war to the regime's advantage on September 30, 2015. Russian forces committed five violations against media professionals in March 2017.

It must be noted that there are no violations against female media professionals in Syria due to the difficult work circumstances which prevent many women from working in this profession especially in areas that are not under regime force control. Many female media activists left Syria or stopped their activism. Female media professionals working in areas under regime control did not suffer any violations. The lack of violations can be attributed to the immense pressure the regime places on all media professionals in areas under its control to toe the regime's political line. The regime controls all media outlets that are active in areas under regime control with an iron fist.

The violations varied in March were the most prominent was the killing of 6 media professionals, of whom four worked with armed forces. Their deaths increase the total number of media professionals killed since the start of the Syrian Revolution on March 15, 2017, to 398 media professionals. The journalist Mohammad Abazid, known as George Samara, was killed in Russian aerial bombardment of Deraa city while covering the bombardment. Media professional Mohammad Ali Bakour was killed by unknown assailants after he was kidnapped in Idlib countryside.

In addition to several media professionals sustaining injuries, the violations recorded in March 2017 included cases of arrest, detention, kidnapping and assault against media professionals. One media professional was sentenced to one-year imprisonment.

Several media professionals in the Kurdish area under the control of the Democratic Union Party's Autonomous Administration were arrested and detained by the Asayish force (subordinate to the Democratic Union Party). The media professionals Juan Abdul Aziz Shehab was arrested in Amuda city and released after ten days. Baro Maaruf Mala Ahmad was arrested in al-Qamishli city and released the same day. Massoud Hamed, a Kurdish journalist holding French nationality was detained in Sabiha Gokcen International Airport in Istanbul, Turkey and deported to France the day after his arrived. Unknown assailants kidnapped the media activist Mohammad Abdul Karim Taha in Homs countryside.
A court in Qamishli subordinate to the Autonomous Administration issued a one-year prison sentence in the right of the media activist Alan Mohammad Salim Ahmad. The SCJF had previously documented Alan's arrest by the Asayish forces in the al-Qamishli city on August 16, 2016. The executive force subordinate to the Supreme Judicial Council in eastern Ghouta in Duma city raised media activist Yasser al-Dumani's house. The raid occurred after an arrest warrant was issued against al-Dumani based on a complaint made against him by Jaish al-Islam.

March witnessed violations against several media institutions and outlets. The General Prosecutor in Duma city (the Supreme Judicial Council in the Eastern Ghouta) which is controlled by Jaish al-Islam issued an order to close all the headquarters of "Rising for Freedom" magazine and all institutions affiliated with it. The closure came after the magazine published an article entitled "O Baba Shilni [Oh Dad lift Me]" which caused much local controversy. Twitter closed the Twitter account of the "On the Ground News" network. The network relies on the Twitter account to upload video clips and reports about Syria. The network account was reactivated after four days. Jisr TV satellite team were directly targeted by the Syrian regime airplanes in the city of Damascus and the countryside of Hama while covering the ongoing battles in these areas.

Finally, March 2017 witnessed the release of the media activist Mohammad Abdul Kader Sabeh on March 8, 2017. Sabeh was released after being detained for two weeks by Tahrir al-Sham Hayat (Levant Liberation Commission).

April 03, 2017

The Syrian Center for Journalistic Freedoms

Syrian Journalists' Association

read the report by pdf