Beirut, September 5, 2018 — The Committee to Protect Journalists today called on the Syrian authorities to immediately release Omar Kalo, a news anchor for the Iraqi Kurdish satellite news broadcaster Rudaw.
Syrian military intelligence forces stopped and arrested Kalo at a checkpoint between the northern Syrian cities of Mambij and Aleppo on August 25 while he was on his way to Aleppo from his hometown Kobane to renew his passport, according to news reports and his employer.
Majeed Gly, New York bureau chief for Rudaw, told CPJ that Syrian authorities had not informed either Rudaw or Kalo’s family of any charges against Kalo or the reasons for his arrest.
“Even when traveling on personal business, a journalist in Syria is at risk of arbitrary detention,” said CPJ Deputy Executive Director Robert Mahoney from New York. “We call on the Syrian authorities to release Omar Kalo immediately.”
The Syrian Defense Ministry did not immediately reply to CPJ’s emailed request for comment.
A statement released by Rudaw, which is affiliated with the Kurdistan Regional Government in northern Iraq, on September 3 said that military intelligence officers manning the checkpoint separated Kalo from his wife and two children and told them they would release Kalo after asking him a few questions. Kalo was subsequently transferred to the military intelligence prison in Aleppo, where he is still being held, according to the Rudaw statement.
The statement cited Kalo’s relatives as saying that Kalo is expected to be transferred to the Syrian military intelligence’s Palestine Branch in Damascus.
Syria is one of the most dangerous places in the world for journalists. At the time of CPJ’s most recent prison census, at least seven journalists were in Syrian state prisons. Many others are missing. At least 123 journalists have been killed covering the Syrian conflict, and government or military officials are suspected in more than half of those deaths. Several journalists, including Bilal Ahmed Bilal and Niraz Saeed, have died in state custody.
Kalo joined Rudaw in 2013 as a correspondent in the northern Syrian city of Kobane, where he covered the siege of the city by the militant group Islamic State and its aftermath, according to news reports and Gly. He subsequently moved to Erbil in 2015 to work as a news anchor, according to Gly.
Videos that he posted on his official Facebook account show that Kalo anchors Rudaw’s Rojava news bulletin, which covers news concerning Syrian Kurds and Syria. His broadcasts recently covered Saudi Arabia’s decision to contribute $100 million in aid to the coalition fighting the militant group Islamic State for post-war reconstruction of areas controlled by the U.S.-backed Syrian Defense Forces. On August 10, he conducted a live Skype interview with Ibrahim Idlibi, an Idlib-based spokesman for the Free Syrian Army, in which Idlibi discussed in detail the impact of Syrian airstrikes on Syrian cities, including Khan al-Shaikhun, and the fear of a large-scale offensive on the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib.