In the afternoon of July 24, 2019, at least 10 members of the Al-Qaeda offshoot Hayat Tahrir al-Sham detained Jumaa Haj Hamdou, a reporter for the Syrian pro-civil rights opposition news website Zaman al-Wasl, at his home in Abian, a village in western Aleppo governorate under control of the militant group, according to the France-based press freedom group the Syrian Journalists’ Association, news reports, and a report by Hamdou’s employer.
Hayat Tahrir al-Sham did not disclose Hamdou’s location or the reason for his detention, and held him for six days, releasing him on July 30, 2019, according to Fathi Ibrahim Bayoud, the editor-in-chief of Zaman al-Wasl, who communicated with CPJ via messaging app. Bayoud told CPJ that he believes Hamdou was detained because of his reporting.
On July 31, Hamdou told CPJ via messaging app that he was not informed about the reason for his detention, but he was interrogated about his sources for Zaman al-Wasl and asked to open and investigate the hard disks they had seized from him.
“I don´t know the location of the prison where I was being held, but it was run by the security of western Aleppo governorate. I was neither insulted, nor tortured, but sitting in the prison for seven days is torture enough. There are no charges pending against me,” Hamdou added.
During his abduction, the militants seized a laptop and other electronics from Hamdou’s home, Bayoud said. Hamdou did not comment on whether Hayat Tahrir al-Sham had returned the equipment they seized from his house.
Hamdou has reported for Zaman al-Wasl since 2012, covering the shelling of civilian areas by the Syrian Army and its allies, the living conditions of the people in the area, and economic issues in northern Syria, according to Bayoud.
According to CPJ reporting, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham has detained at least three journalists–Mohammed Fadl al-Janoudi and Ahmad al-Akhras, who were later released, and Maan Bakour, who remains in custody–since May 2018.