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France 24 recalls reporter from Syria after death threats

Reuters/Goran Tomasevic

RFI’s sister TV station, France 24, has recalled one of its reporters from Syria after threats to his life were published on social media. They described him as a Shia-Muslim agent in the Syrian government’s pay and said he should be prevented from working with rebels on pain of death.

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Chady Chlela, who had to return to France after just 48 hours in Syria, has filed a case with Paris public prosecutors, backed by his employers, demanding an inquiry into death threats and incitement to murder.

The threats, which were widely shared on social media, increase concern about the sectarian nature of some of the largely Sunni-Muslim armed opponents to President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

Assad and some of his closest allies are members of the minority Alawite sect while the regime is allied to Shia-ruled Iran.

In a communiqué France 24 and the French international broadcasting group AEF declared their “complete support” for Chlela and described the threats as attacks on the freedom of the press.

Press freedom campaign Reporters Without Borders (RSF) publicised the case in a statement Monday. 

It also condemned a “spate of attacks” on government media and journalists, including the bombing of the state TV station’s headquarters and the reported killing of Mohammad Sayeed, a state TV presenter who was kidnapped from his Damascus home on 19 July.

Citing the London-based Syrian Human Rights Monitoring Centre, RSF said that his abduction and murder were claimed by an Islamist group, al-Nosra, which described Sayeed as a shabbih pro-government militia member and said he was interrogated and then executed.

The Al-Nosra communiqué, accompanied by a photo of Sayeed with his abductors, was posted on a website that displays an al-Qaeda flag.

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