Members of the General Public Security, a Free Syrian Army (FSA) security force, on May 15, 2018, assaulted and detained Wael Adel and Omar Hafez, a correspondent and cameraperson, respectively, for the Turkey-based, pro-opposition Syria TV, according to their employer, news reports, the Syrian Journalists Association, and the regional press freedom group SKeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom.
Adel told the Committee to Protect Journalists that he and Hafez were filming a report on preparations for Ramadan in the town of Azaz, located 20 miles (32 km) northwest of Aleppo, when a man in civilian clothes who identified himself as a General Public Security officer approached them. The officer asked them where they work, asked to see their video footage and WhatsApp messages on their phones, and then requested their identification papers.
A man who identified himself as a General Public Security sergeant then arrived and told Adel and Hafez that they were not allowed to film and that they should wait for a senior officer to come. The senior officer, who identified himself as Abu Hussein, arrived and said he worked for the security force in Azzaz and that the journalists could not film because they lacked permission from the Azzaz local council.
“I told him that we had been working in the area for years and we had never needed a license. Abu Hussein ordered the sergeant to arrest us and seize our equipment, but we said he needed a warrant for that,” Adel told CPJ. The journalist said that Abu Hussein then ordered his men to detain him and Hafez and “destroy them.”
Adel said that four General Public Security officers beat and insulted them before bringing them to their car. The officers drove them to the security group’s local headquarters where seven men beat them again. “They held us for three hours and let us go, but they withheld our equipment and IDs,” Adel said.
Five days later, Adel and Hafez retrieved their equipment and ID cards, but all the footage was deleted and a piece of their video camera was destroyed, Adel said.
Adel has been working for Syria TV since January 2018, covering clashes between Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army factions and the Kurdish People’s Protect Units (YPG) in northern Aleppo. He previously worked as a war correspondent for the London-based pan-Arab channel Al-Ghad Al-Arabi TV, the local pro-opposition news agency Aleppo News, and the Turkey-based pro-opposition community broadcaster Radio Nasaem.
Hafez is also a member of the pro-opposition Mara’a Media Office and worked as a photographer for the pro-opposition news agency Shaam News Network.