Syria: Journalist detained for second time in six months

A journalist working for state-owned newspaper ‘Al Wehda’ was detained for the second time in six months on 7 March, in an alleged defamation case. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) calls for his immediate release.

Kennan Wakkaf

Two days before being arrested by the cybercrime police in the Syrian capital, Damascus, journalist Kenan Wakkaf posted a message on his Facebook account stating: "By the time you read this post I will be in detention. If you don't ask for your right, who will? If it is not now, when?”

His detention came a week after he posted a story on Facebook about a Syrian conscript soldier who was held as a hostage after being assigned to guard the house of a governor. According to the story, the governor's son had asked the soldier’s father to pay  15 million Syrian pounds to release him. He claimed that the soldier had stolen money and jewellery from the governor’s house.

This is Wakkaf’s second arrest in six months. In September 2020, he was detained for two days following a report in Al Wehda newspaper on corruption in the General Electricity Company of Tartous, the second largest port in Syria. According to his findings, the company was allegedly involved in questionable photoelectric station deals with an influential businessman. At the time, he was sued for defamation but was released following the publication of his report. Syrian media law prohibits the jailing of journalists for their work.

However, a story published on Facebook is not considered as journalism in Syria and Wakkaf was charged under the criminal code. 

IFJ General Secretary, Anthony Bellanger, said: “Our colleague Kenan Wakkaf has been detained twice in six months for doing his job. We demand his immediate release. We also call on the Syrian authorities to decriminalise journalism in all its national laws".

For more information, please contact IFJ on +32 2 235 22 16

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