Syrian journalists have been harassed or imprisoned by the Assad regime as well as threatened or attacked by militant groups such as Islamic State. Ultimately, dozens have been forced to flee into exile. These are four of their stories. A Committee to Protect Journalists special report by Nicole Schilit.
Published June 17, 2015
Over the past year, while global media attention was trained on harrowing cases of abduction and murder of international journalists in Syria, scores of local journalists grappled with similar risks away from the spotlight. Many who had been harassed or imprisoned by the Assad regime early in the conflict were now threatened or attacked by militant groups such as Islamic State.
Ultimately, at least 16 Syrian journalists were forced to flee the country for their safety between June 2014 and May 2015-joining the dozens of journalists worldwide each year who make the difficult decision to leave behind homes, jobs, family, and friends to escape harassment, imprisonment, abduction, or murder in reprisal for their work. Over the year, CPJ’s Journalist Assistance program has aided at least 82 journalists fleeing from 30 different countries. CPJ is releasing its annual survey of journalists in exile to mark World Refugee Day, June 20.
Since March 2011, CPJ has helped 101 Syrian journalists going into exile; in the past five years, the country has seen more journalists flee than any other country in the world.
The story of Syrian exiled journalists is unique because a large number of those who ran into danger while documenting and disseminating the news were not initially journalists at all. Starting in 2011, scores of Syrian men and women picked up pens, laptops, video recorders, cameras, and phones to relay to the rest of the world what was happening in their country, particularly as international journalists were increasingly excluded or endangered.
The Syrians reported for local media centers, news websites, regional outlets, and international publications, covering daily life inside the country as well as the conflict. They did this work at no small risk: Syria has been the most deadly country for journalists for three consecutive years, with at least 83 killed in direct relation to their work since late 2011.