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Displacement forces journalists of Syria’s Hama to change professions

IDLIB, Syria (North Press) – Media worker Muhammad al-Saleh, who hails from Ghab Plain, west of Hama, was forced to change his profession as a correspondent and work in a pastry shop, which he has recently opened in Deir Hassan camps in the countryside of Idlib, northwest Syria.

After Syrian government forces took control over the entire area in the northern and western countryside of Hama in 2019, al-Saleh lost his job and it was impossible for him to complete his work within those areas. 

Al-Saleh started his work in the media field with the eruption of the anti-Damascus government demonstrations in the countryside of Hama, covering and documenting battles in the cities and towns of both northern and western countryside of the city for several media outlets.

However, he has not been able to obtain an appropriate job opportunity, because most media workers are searching for work in light of the lack of opportunities.

Since early 2020, more than 30 media workers and activists whom our North Press correspondent met with lost their jobs after government forces took control over the area where they used to cover events.

Immigration

As a result of deteriorating living and economic conditions in Idlib, in addition to the restrictions practiced in the media field by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS, formerly al-Nusra Front), some other media workers in Hama preferred to emigrate abroad.

The United Nations-designated terrorist organization Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) continued imposing restrictions on media and freedom of expression in its area of control in the northwest, including by arbitrarily detaining media activists and journalists, including women, the UN Syria Commission said two days ago.

After losing his job and being harassed by security authorities affiliated with HTS in Idlib,  media worker Mo’ayad al-Omari (pseudonym), an IDP from the northern countryside of Hama, preferred to emigrate rather than stay at home.

Al-Omari, who reached Turkey after 15 attempts through smugglers, faced severe risks and was beaten by Turkish border guards on his way to Turkey.

Media activist Abdu al-Hamowi (pseudonym), an IDP from Hama, said that the institution where he worked a field correspondent refused to renew his contract after he was displaced to the city of Idlib.

“The institution justified their practice, saying, that they have several correspondents in the city, so they fired me without any compensation,” according to al-Hamowi.

The terms of the contract that he signed stipulates compensation for the correspondents who were wounded during their work for the institution, according to him.

Al-Hamowi was wounded several times while covering battles in the countryside of Hama the institution did not recognize this term.

Other professions

Difficult living conditions forced al-Hamowi to borrow money from a friend living abroad to open a studio for photography and printing in Idlib in order to secure his family’s basics.

Akhalid Youssef (pseudonym), an IDP from Hama countryside living in Idlib, was fired a year ago because government forces took control over the area he used to cover.

Most activists in Idlib are working with media institutions without an official work contract, and “some believe that the correspondent is merely an individual working only for sake of money,” according to Youssef.

Reporting by Bara’ al-Shami

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