Beirut, July 10, 2018–The Committee to Protect Journalists today expressed concern about dozens of Syrian journalists and media workers trapped in the southwestern Syrian provinces of Daraa and Quneitra.
At least 70 journalists and media workers are caught in Quneitra between advancing forces aligned with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the closed borders of Israel and Jordan, according to the Syrian Journalists Association, news reports, and Syrian journalists Amjad Assaf, Abd al-Hai al-Ahmad, and Mohammad al-Hourani, with whom CPJ spoke.
Their circumstances follow a July 6 agreement between the Syrian government and Syrian opposition forces– including the Free Syrian Army–on the surrender of the remaining opposition-held cities and towns in Daraa province, according to news reports. Many journalists, as well as other civilians, fled the offensive to Quneitra, which neighbors Israel, Jordan, and the Daraa province, according to the same reports.
“Given the danger from fighting, as well as Syrian security services’ heavy-handed treatment of journalists and media workers in the past, it is no wonder that the journalists in Daraa and Quneitra are afraid,” CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour said from Washington, D.C. “We call on all governments in the region to work together to ensure that the journalists’ well-being is safe-guarded.”
In statement, the independent Syrian Journalists Association estimated that at least 270 Syrian journalists are caught between the border and advancing forces. CPJ could confirm the cases of at least 70 journalists and media workers.
“Local journalists are afraid of the [advancing] Syrian government, the Russian forces, and the Iran-backed militias. We need safe passage out of Quneitra, be it through the [Israeli controlled] Golan Heights or via [the Syrian province of] Idlib, and we need assurances that our safety will be ensured,” according to al-Hourani, who was formerly based in Daraa province and is currently one of the 70 journalists trapped in Quneitra.
Syrian journalists Amjad Asaf, a reporter for the pro-opposition news website Al-Souria, and Abd al-Hai al-Ahmad, a reporter for the Dubai-based news TV channel Alan TV, told CPJ from Jordan that the journalists trapped in western Daraa and near the Golan Heights will be in great danger unless they can go to a safer place.
“These journalists are fleeing the fighting and are afraid of being arrested by the Syrian security services,” al-Ahmad said.
Syria is one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists. At least 120 journalists have been killed in the country in relation to their work since the conflict began in 2011, according to CPJ research. At the time of CPJ’s most recent prison census, at least seven journalists were in Syrian state prisons. Many others are missing.