Beirut, July 10, 2019 — The Committee to Protect Journalists today expressed concern about the arrest of Syrian journalist Rabea Kalawandi, a reporter for Iranian state-run broadcaster Al-Alam TV, and called on Syrian authorities to reveal the reason for his arrest or release him immediately.
On July 7, in Aleppo, Syrian security forces arrested Kalawandi without publicly stating a reason for his arrest, according to a report by pro-regime news website Snack Syrian. Kalawandi’s family has been unable to contact him or arrange a lawyer for his defense, according to that report.
Snack Syrian and other reports do not specify where Kalawandi was in Aleppo or what he was doing at the time of his arrest.
The Syrian government has been supportive of Al-Alam TV in the past, granting the outlet an interview with President Bashar al-Assad in 2018.
“The arrest without charge of Rabea Kalawandi is a bleak reminder that no journalist in Syria is safe, no matter their views or who controls the patch of ground on which they stand,” said CPJ Middle East and North Africa representative Ignacio Miguel Delgado. “We call on the Syrian authorities to either reveal the reasons for Kalawandi’s arrest or to release him without delay.”
CPJ emailed the Syrian Defense Ministry and the Interior Ministry for comment but did not immediately receive a response.
Kalawandi has a substantial following on social media, where he posts pro-Assad updates about the Syrian civil war and his Al-Alam reports on his Facebook and YouTube accounts. In 2016, while embedded with the Syrian Army in Aleppo, he posted a video to his personal YouTube mocking pro-opposition graffiti in the city, which was covered by local media.
Al-Alam TV did not immediately reply to CPJ´s request for comment sent via social media and via a questionnaire on its website.