Syrian journalist arrested in Jordan, threatened with expulsion
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls for the immediate release of Ibrahim Awwad, a Syrian freelance journalist based in the Jordanian capital, Amman, who was arrested last week and is now threatened with being sent back to Syria.
According to Fared Al-Mahlool, a friend and fellow journalist, Jordanian security officials raided Awwad’s home in Amman on 17 November, arresting him and seizing his laptop and mobile phone. After beating Awwad, they took him and three other detainees with links to the Syrian opposition to Azraq refugee camp, 80 km east of Amman. He is now threatened with deportation to Syria, where he would face probable reprisals.
Awwad has been based in Jordan since 2015, covering the war in Syria for several Arab TV channels. He recently announced on his Facebook account that he was preparing a TV programme about Iranian influence in the Arab world and, in particular, in Deraa, a city in southern Syria near the border with Jordan.
“We call on the Jordanian authorities to release the journalist Ibrahim Awwad,” said Sabrina Bennoui, the head of RSF’s Middle East desk. “Under no circumstances should Amman become an accomplice to the direct persecution of a journalist whose critical reporting puts him in danger in his country of origin.”
Awwad’s arrest comes at a delicate time following a visit by a Syrian ministerial delegation in late September that led to the restoration of bilateral cooperation. According to Mahlool, a Syrian intelligence official specifically asked the Jordanian authorities to address the issue of Syrian journalists covering the situation in Deraa, where Syrian government forces have been waging an offensive in recent months against rebel groups still present in certain parts of the city. The Jordanian authorities have reportedly also urged several members of the Syrian opposition to leave Jordan.
RSF is aware of at least three other cases of foreign journalists being threatened with expulsion from Jordan. A Syrian journalist was arrested in November 2020 and was questioned in connection with a story linked to security issues in Jordan, before being released a few weeks later. Saleem Akash, a Bangladeshi journalist based in Amman, was arrested at the start of the pandemic, in April 2020, and was expelled in January 2021. And a Syrian exile media outlet whose staff consisted most of Syrian refugees, was forced to cease operating last August.
Jordan is ranked 129th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2021 World Press Freedom Index.