New York, February 11, 2022 – Syrian government authorities should stop pursuing journalist Kenan Waqaf and cease harassing and detaining members of the press, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
In the early morning of February 6, Waqaf posted a video to his Facebook account saying that he had gone into hiding after heavily armed security forces arrived at his home in the western city of Tartus and tried to arrest him.
Waqaf, who said in the video that he worked for the state-owned newspaper Al-Wahda, had published a post on his Facebook page on February 4 criticizing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
“Syrian authorities have effectively silenced any independent journalist in areas under their control, and yet that doesn’t stop them from trying to stamp out even the slightest hint of criticism,” said Senior Middle East and North Africa Researcher Justin Shilad. “The Syrian government must stop trying to arrest journalist Kenan Waqaf and should release all imprisoned members of the press without delay.”
In his February 4 post, Waqaf criticized Assad for hosting artists at a reception while not responding to issues including long lines for those trying to access government services and protests and roadblocks in the southern Syrian city of Sweida.
On his Facebook page, where he has about 8,600 followers, Waqaf frequently posts reporting on corruption and the deterioration in living standards in government-controlled areas of the country.
The Syria-focused online news outlet Enab Baladi reported that Waqaf was previously arrested in September 2020 and March 2021 after sharing news on Facebook about government corruption and the kidnapping of a government official’s son.
In an interview with CPJ last month, exiled Syrian journalist Amer Matar said that detainees face beatings, torture, and other brutal treatment in Syrian government jails.
CPJ emailed the Syrian Ministry of Interior for comment, but did not immediately receive any response.