In May 2019: Nine violations documented, danger follows media professional everywhere
As the de-escalation-zone agreement, brokered by Turkey and Russia in Sept. 2018, collapsed and the systematic shelling —by the Syrian regime pursuing a scorched-earth policy on Idlib, Hama countryside backed by Russia and allied militias —intensified, the violations against media have escalated in Syria in May 2019. The SCJF documented 9 violations against media in Syria. 8 violations occurred in May while one violation occurred in Feb. 2019 but documented after being verified according to criteria and methodology of documentation. Hence, May witnessed a significant increase in the number of violations compared to that documented in last April.
In May 2019, the Syrian regime topped those responsible for violations by committing 7 violations against media in Syria. The regime’s shelling directly hit media professionals, journalists while performing their media work. Also, Hayyat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) continues pressuring media freedoms in areas under its control. HTS committed one violation by detaining one media professional in last May. It is worth mentioning that one violation was committed by an unidentified side.
Five media professionals were injured in May 2019 while 2 others were detained.
Media professional Ayham Muhammed al-Bayoushi was injured by Syrian regime’s air raids on Maaret al-Numan in Idlib southern countryside. Also, media professionals Mustafa al-Khalaf and Mustafa Ahmad Dahnon (aka Mustafa al-Abbas) were injured slightly by the regime’s air raids while they were covering shelling on Hama countryside. And, media professional Sohaib al-Masri was seriously injured by unidentified bombardment while he was, with the regime forces and militias, covering clashes in Kfar Nabuda in the northern countryside of Hama governorate.
The SCJF documented 2 violations against foreign journalists and media organizations in Syria in May 2019. The journalist Bilal Abdulkarim was injured by the regime’s bombardment while covering clashes between opposition’s factions, HTS and the Syrian regime in Hama northern countryside. Also, Sky News TV channel announced that its press crew was hit by the Syrian regime’ bombardment helped by Russia in Idlib, north-western Syria.
In addition, the SCJF documented the arrest of media professional Taha Sino on Feb. 20, 2019, in al-Hasaka province by the regime’s intelligence. Taha only was released on Sunday, 19 May 2019.
Also, HTS detained media professional Mahmoud Sumaq in Idlib’s Binnish for his post on his personal Facebook page, and released him one day later.
Furthermore, the SCJF documented 2 violations against media centers and organizations in May 2019. The Syrian regime deliberately targeted a foreign media crew while members of the Syrian regime forces raided the Syrian Press Centre (SPC) in Hama countryside, near the renowned Afamia Fortress, after they controlled the area, plundering the center’s equipment before burning it.
The SCJF continues its documentation of the serious developments surrounding the media freedoms in May 2019 in Syria. Repeatedly and deliberately, the Syrian regime hit media professionals in Hama countryside and Idlib during their media coverage. It is worth noting that a number of media professionals were rescued from under the rubble.
Media freedoms in the regime-controlled areas are not in a better situation. In May 2019, a number of journalists were detained while several others abandoned their media work for fearing arrest or prosecution by the regime.
As for geographical distribution, violations in May 2019 occurred in Idlib and Hama provinces. Hama province witnessed 5 violations while Idlib province witnessed 3 violations and al-Hasaka province, north-eastern of Syria, witnessed only one violation.