A Syrian businessman said employees at a private channel he owns had to resign following threats by Syrian security officials over coverage of recent protests against the regime.
Employees at Orient TV, a privately owned channel that broadcasts from the U.A.E., received phone calls from top Syrian security officials threatening to hunt down and kidnap their families in Syria if they do not resign, according to Ghassan Aboud, owner of the channel.
“The threats came in the wake of the channel’s coverage of anti-government protests in Deraa and other Syrian cities as well as interviews conducted with opposition figures,” he told AlArabiya.net.
Following the threats, Aboud added, three of the channel’s employees submitted their resignation and the rest are living in constant fear, which drove him to comply with the Syrian government’s orders.
“We decided to stop covering the protests in Syria for the time being until the employees restore their calm.”
Aboud declined to mention the names of security officials who called to threaten channel employees, but said they are in very high positions in the Syrian government.
“They are even in higher positions than Asef Shawakt, but it was not Asef Shawkat who called.”
Asef Shawkat is the brother-in-law of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad and one of the top security officials in Syria.
Aboud denied that he was put under any pressure by the U.A.E. authorities to stop the channel’s coverage of the unrest in Syria and attributed the threats against the channel to the fact that it followed a path other than the one chartered by the Syrian government to media outlets.
“We offered both points of view, the government and the opposition, and this is against the policies of Syrian media.”
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Syrian authorities have been arresting protestors in different parts of the country.
According to the non-governmental rights organization, 11 people were arrested Friday during the Umayyad Mosque demonstration in the capital Damascus and three were arrested Saturday in the northwestern city of Baniyas.
The observatory added that 10 days ago four high school students from al-Bassil School in the southwestern city of Duma in the Rif Dimashq governorate were arrested for writing anti-government slogans on the walls. The students were taken out of the classrooms in handcuffs.
Based on the observatory’s statement, six protesters were also arrested Thursday during the Ministry of Interior sit-in and their whereabouts are still unknown.
On the same day, the statement added, 32 activists were arrested and referred to court for allegedly insulting the state, spreading sedition among different factions in the country, and inciting racial and sectarian hatred.
(Translated from the Arabic by Sonia Farid)