On July 12, 2019, a Syrian prison official sent a voice message to the family of freelance journalist Alaa Nayef al-Khader al-Khalidi, saying al-Khalidi had died in Sednaya Military Prison under torture, the journalist’s brother, Mohammad Nayef al-Khalidi, told CPJ via messaging app. The official did not tell the family the exact date of his death, and they were not provided any documentation about his death, Mohammad Nayef al-Khalidi told CPJ.
Mohammad Nayef al-Khalidi told CPJ that government forces arrested al-Khalidi–who was also known as Wissam al-Dimashqi–on June 26, 2016, while he was covering clashes in the city of Douma, northeast of Damascus. He told CPJ that government forces initially took his brother to the Branch 215 prison, which is run by Syrian military intelligence.
In September 2016, an anonymous caller told Mahmoud al-Khader al-Khalidi, another of the journalist’s brothers, that the journalist was accused of doing media work for the opposition to the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and that his family could pay a large sum of money to have the journalist transferred from a military prison to a civilian one, according to a report by the France-based press freedom group the Syrian Journalists’ Association. The journalist was eventually transferred to the Sednaya Military Prison, Mohammad Nayef al-Khalidi said.
The Syrian Defense Ministry did not reply to CPJ’s emailed request for comment.
Al-Khalidi reported on military clashes, as well as bombings and airstrikes on Douma, and he worked with the Douma Coordination Office, an organization that documented civilian deaths and casualties, Mohammad Nayef al-Khalidi said. Syrian researcher and journalist Waseem al-Khatib, a close friend of al-Khalidi, told CPJ that al-Khalidi worked as a freelancer.
Al-Khalidi was never included on CPJ’s annual prison census because CPJ had been unaware of his arrest and imprisonment.