Syrian forces intervene during online broadcast

Syrian soldier Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption A Syrian government soldier in Damascus

Since it became possible for anyone with a smartphone and a decent signal to live-stream video, a number of extraordinary and unpredicted events have been broadcast on social media as they happened.

This week a woman in the USA live-streamed the aftermath of the incident in which her boyfriend was shot dead by policemen, with her young daughter sitting in the same car. Lavish Reynolds was able to keep filming even when officers made her kneel on the pavement at gunpoint.

But in some places, it's best not to flash your phone and microphone around, even if you are a pro-government reporter.

On Wednesday, a presenter from Damascus Now - a popular Syrian Facebook page dedicated to local news - had some surprise guests while he was doing a Facebook Live appearance on the streets of the Syrian capital.

Damascus Now, which has almost one million followers, tends to adopt a pro-government tone. But despite that, and for reasons that are not entirely clear, passing members of the security forces became suspicious and decided to question the reporter while he was in the middle of his live broadcast from the Al-Baramkah neighbourhood. Viewers saw the camera shaking and the filming angle rotating,

There was a mixed reaction from the audience. Some made jokes in the comments section under the video as the reporter was questioned live on air. One interrogator asked him who he worked for and the content of the Facebook Live. One viewer commented "poor man", while another one was concerned about the fate of the reporter.

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After the incident the video of the event was deleted from Damascus Now's Facebook page. But a brief account of what happened was posted on the page, pointing out that this was the first instance of a Facebook Live broadcast in Damascus being interrupted by security forces. According to the website, the reporter was set free "after the security found out he works for Damascus Now page" and then resumed his work.

Image copyright Facebook
Image caption Damascus Now later posted on Facebook thanking the security forces for their actions

In a comment under this post, Damascus Now felt compelled to clarify its position on the incident, and praised the Assad regime security forces for "doing their job".

"We really thank the security personnel for fulfilling their duty," it said. "The Damascus Now reporter is now back to doing his job. Our point is that this was the first time that someone had been stopped while live-streaming from Damascus and interrogated for a short time and the live-streaming was still ongoing. Thank you [Facebook commentators]. Thanks to the security forces. Thanks to Damascus Now reporter."

Image copyright Facebook
Image caption "This is what they are good at, while they say they have not heard of crimes like smuggling drugs, robbery, kidnapping children, booby-trapped cars, etc."

The post has since received more than 1700 likes. But in the comments below, opinion was split. Some were supportive of the actions of the security forces, saying that they were "doing their duty" in the times of war. Others thought the intervention had been heavy handed.

Image copyright Facebook
Image caption "They should investigate it - He could be a double agent who films not only for this Damascus page, but also sends [the clips] to someone else."
Image copyright Facebook
Image caption "Strange country... They arrest a person for using his camera... as long as there is no sign that bans taking pictures, the reporter has not broken the law."
Image copyright Facebook
Image caption "Three years ago I wanted to take a photo and they [security] did not allow me to do so, they deleted the pictures so how would you film a video today and upload it on the internet while wandering the streets."

Blog by Dmytro Zotsenko,

Reporting by the BBC Monitoring Middle East team

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