FSA-affiliated fighters reportedly beat journalist over Facebook post

Fighters with a Free Syrian Army affiliate in east Daraa province allegedly broke into the home of Abd al-Minam al-Khalil, the former director of Yaqeen Media Foundation and current spokesman for the Daraa Provincial Council, in broad daylight this past Sunday and beat him.

Al-Khalil’s crime?

A Facebook post accusing the FSA affiliate Liwa Shuhada Houran of stealing and then selling off municipal phone lines. The brigade has not commented publicly on the incident.

Daraa journalists say Abd al-Minam al-Khalil is not the first person to be physically attacked for criticizing an armed group in Daraa province.

“Anyone who utters or reports a word they don’t like is subject to threat," Abu Ali al-Hourani, a journalist in the west Daraa countryside told Syria Direct in March.

“There must be laws protecting freedom of expression in Daraa,” Sayf al-Hourani, a journalist with the Yaqeen Media Foundation, tells Syria Direct's Waleed Khaled a-Noufal.

“No one will be permitted to seize our freedom of expression.”

Q: Who attacked and beat Abd al-Minam al-Khalil?

He was attacked by Liwa Shuhada Houran, a brigade under the command of the Free Syrian Army, Shabaab a-Sunna Division, after he spoke out on social media against their theft and sale of city telephone cables. He was beaten in response to a post on social media.

Q: What is his health condition? Were any weapons used against him?

At the moment his condition is stable. His body is bruised and he has a laceration above his eyebrow, but no weapons were used against him.

Q: Has his case been brought to the attention of the Court of Justice in Daraa province? What was their response?

We brought an official complaint to the Court of Justice in Daraa Province on Monday. We have not heard a response from the court.

Q: As an organization, what is the Yaqeen Media Foundation's stance on the incident?

Without any exception we condemn this type of behavior. Not just attacks on members of our foundation, but any journalist in Daraa. We will take a strong stance against any side that attacks either journalists or media organizations.

There are a lot of possible steps we may take. We are waiting for the court's response, but we may organize protests.

We demand the full rights of Abd al-Minam al-Khalil be enforced. There must be laws protecting freedom of expression in Daraa. We won't stand silently in the face of injustice, oppression or violence. No one will be permitted to seize our freedom of expression.

Once this case is over, we will coordinate with the citizen journalists in Daraa to launch a new initiative protecting journalists and freedom of the press.

Waleed Khaled a-Noufal

Waleed a-Noufal was born in Ankhel in northern Daraa province. He attended high school in Ankhel but could not continue his study because of security reasons. Waleed worked as an activist in his local city council and the Umayya Media Center. In 2013, he moved to Jordan and finished his high school degree. Waleed wants to bring about a solution to the current crisis through his reporting.

David Leestma, Reporter/Translator

David Leestma studied International Relations at Grand Valley State University. His studies took him to Lebanon, as well as Morocco and Oman with the Critical Language Scholarship in 2014 and 2015. Before joining Syria Direct as a full time reporter, David interned with Syria Direct as a translator and collaborated with ISW to produce the Syria Situation Report.