Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is very concerned about opposition TV reporter Hadi al Monajid’s disappearance in Eastern Ghouta, the besieged rebel enclave near Damascus, and calls on the international community to do everything possible to protect journalists caught in the fighting.
Hadi al Monajid is the Eastern Ghouta correspondent of Dubai-based Syrian opposition TV channel Orient News, which has had no news of him since 17 March. His colleagues fear he has been arrested.
According to their information, government forces – which have regained control of more than 80% of the rebel enclave – arrested members of his family a few days before his disappearance and threatened to kill them in order to force him to surrender. Pro-government newspapers meanwhile claim that he surrendered of his own free will.
“The Syrian authorities must shed all possible light on this journalist’s disappearance,” RSF said. “Like other civilians, journalists must be allowed to leave battles zones without fearing reprisals against themselves or their families. We call on the international community to put pressure on Bashar al-Assad’s regime and its allies to respect their categorical obligation to protect civilians, including journalists, at all times under international humanitarian and human rights law.”
Like thousands of other civilians, journalists and citizen-journalists in Eastern Ghouta have been exposed to great danger by the regime’s push to regain control of the region. The Syrian Journalists Association estimated at the end of last month that around 75 journalists were in danger in Eastern Ghouta as a result of the military offensive and heavy bombardments.
A total of 55 journalists have been killed in Eastern Ghouta since 2011, two of them since the start of the year. More than 230 journalists and citizen-journalists have been killed in connection with their work in the past seven years in Syria, and at least 24 are currently detained by the regime.
Syria is ranked 177th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index.