In a recording circulating on social networks, a man identifying himself as an HTS leader threatens to kill all those who criticize his group, especially journalists. “I swear by God that I will not leave a single journalist on Syrian soil,” he says.
The threats were made amid demonstrations in recent days by hundreds of people protesting against the control that HTS and the rebel "National Salvation Government” exercise over the province.
“We condemn the continuing threats by Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham’s jihadis against journalists who are just doing their job by covering the discontent expressed by the Idlib region’s inhabitants,” said Sabrina Bennoui, the head of RSF’s Middle East desk. “This statement show the blatant, deliberate and systematic nature of the attacks against the media in this region.”
Two photojournalists, Omar Haj Kadour, who works for AFP, and Ibrahim Khatib, who works for the BBC and the Turkish news agency Anadolu, have meanwhile been beaten by HTS jihadis.
In a Facebook post, Kadour describes how he and other journalists were assaulted by HTS militants while covering the protests in Kafr Takharim, a town in Idlib province. They tried to arrest him to prevent him filming and, when the demonstrators objected, they beat him and seized his camera, which was eventually returned to him after residents interceded.
HTS arrested two citizen-journalists in Idlib province on 22 August. One of them, Mohammad Daboul, who worked for the Idlib Media Centre, a local news agency, was released a week later. The other, Fateh Raslan, a reporter for the Step Feed News website, was finally released on 8 October in return for an undertaking to never again work for this media outlet, regarded by HTS as “opposed to the revolution.”
Syria is ranked 174th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index.