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Sunday, December 23, 2012

Syrian Television Journalist Announces Defection

A photograph of Ahmad Fakhouri, a former Syrian state television anchor in disguise, was on the Web site of the Saudi mews channel Al Arabiya on Thursday. A photograph of Ahmad Fakhouri, a former Syrian state television anchor in disguise, was on the Web site of the Saudi mews channel Al Arabiya on Thursday.

In a telephone interview shown on Thursday by the Saudi news channel Al Arabiya, a man who identified himself as Ahmad Fakhouri, a prominent Syrian state television anchor, announced his defection.

In the interview, which was summarized in English on the c hannel's Web site, Mr. Fakhouri said that he left his position, and Syria, because of restrictions placed on him by state media officials. He also said that he and other journalists at the station were not allowed to stray from scripted questions when guests appeared on the program, and that “most” of the news employees at the station opposed the regime but were under constant watch by security agencies.

Video of an interview broadcast by the Saudi satellite channel Al Arabiya on Thursday, in which a man identified as a prominent Syrian state television journalist announced his defection.

According to the article on Al Arabiya's Web site, Mr. Fakhouri left his job and lived in disguise in Damascus for six months “until he was able to smug gle his wife, daughter, parents, his sister, and one of his two brothers through Beirut airport to Cairo, then followed them to Cairo where he lives now without work.”

Fakhouri told Al Arabiya in a telephone interview this week that he succeeded so well in disguising himself that nobody but his own family could recognize him. He rented an apartment close to his old neighborhood in Damascus and used many disguises, fearing that the intelligence forces would recognize him.

“Once, I shaved my hair to become bald, and then I grew a mustache and wore dark glasses. Another time, I grew my beard so nobody could recognize me,” he said.

A resignation letter in Mr. Fakhouri's name, published on the All4Syria Web site, said he had been accompanied by rebels while fleeing to Turkey. The letter began:

To the great Syrian people and to all the honorable journalists (or med ia people) in my country. I waited a long time to write these words…. I didn't think I'd make it out of Syria alive - ever since I left my job at the Syrian television channel which was more than eight months ago - because of the harassment and the investigations that I endured from the political security bureau and the state security, the most irritating and insulting of which was Branch 215, where most of my colleagues working in radio and television were also interrogated. All of this because of my public stances vis-à-vis the Syrian revolution and the ruling regime.

In the text, the journalist said that he was helped to escape by a longtime friend and thanked rebels in Hama and Ahrah al-Sham, who helped him to travel to Turkey through “liberated” areas of Syria.

All my gratitude to the people of Idlib, especially the village of Haas, the battalions of al-Qadissia and the revolutionary heroes there. I was sure that they were no t terrorists as the regime claimed. They are the best and most noble people. May God grant them victory. I would also like to ask all rebels and opposition members, inside and outside, not to be unfair toward all those who work in Syrian media by judging them before you know the whole story. A lot of them oppose the regime and are not O.K. with its crimes. But they have no power because in that place every breath is calculated and sins are doubled.

The news was received with some incredulity by writers and activists who blog about Syria.