Syrian regime forces raid home of former state media journalist after Assad comments

Syrian regime forces raid home of former state media journalist after Assad comments
The journalist had been arrested multiple times over the past years for criticising corruption and the economic state of Syria.
2 min read
08 February, 2022
The journalist lives in the city of Tartous, a traditional support base of the Assad regime. [Sylvain GRANDADAM /Gamma-Rapho via Getty]

A Syrian journalist for a pro-regime outlet has gone into hiding and fears being arrested after repeatedly criticising corruption in the country, according to reports.

The crackdown against Waqqaf comes after he pointed out that Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad hosted an actor while protests over a drop in living standards were ongoing in Suweida.

Kenan Waqqaf, a journalist who used to work for the state-run daily Al-Wehda , released a video in which he said that "heavily armed security forces" had surrounded his house in the city of Tartous with the intention to arrest him.

Waqqaf said he was not at home during the raid and seems to have gone into hiding.

"They are after me. I am under threat of being killed," Waqqaf said in the video, which widely shared by other Syrian journalists on social media. 

Waqqaf lives in Tartous, an area that has been generally loyal to the regime throughout the course of the war. 

However, the desperate economic situation has sparked discontent even among Assad's traditional support base. Protests in Suweida - which has been under nominal regime control throughout the war - have been sparked by the suppression of thousands of ration cards, which allow families to purchase staple foods at a subsidised rate.

The journalist was previously arrested twice in 2020 and 2021, after sharing social media posts criticising the government and for his work investigating corruption cases.

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"By the time you read this post I would have been detained," he wrote on his Facebook page in March 2021, after being summoned by the Syrian cybercrime police in Damascus after publishing a report in which he accused the governor of Latakia province and his son of kidnapping a man for ransom.

Syria regime areas remain one of the most difficult places for journalists to report with no tolerance for free media.

Citizen journalists and reporters have been detained and killed throughout the war.

All parties to the ongoing civil conflict, which has already lasted more than ten years, have suppressed press freedom and arbitrarily detained journalists.

In regime-controlled areas, the press is tightly monitored by state security services.