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Detained Bloggers and Journalists in Syria: The List Gets Longer

Categories: Syria, Advocacy, Legal Threats

Blogger Hussein Ghrer

Since the street protest movement began in March 2011 in Syria [1], threats and physical attacks against journalists have increased. The list of detained bloggers and journalists gets longer and includes foreign journalists arrested and deported. Among the latest, prominent blogger and programmer Hussein Ghrer [2], who disappeared on October 24.

On October 27 Reporters Without Borders published a list [3] that includes some of the journalists, bloggers and cyber-activists identified as currently detained in the country:

Repression against freedom of speech is not unprecedented in Syria, whose authorities have prevented journalists from entering the country for decades. On March 24, Syrian political adviser Buthaina Shaaban announced on behalf of the Regional Command of the Baath Party a list of reforms that included a free press. On August 28, President Bashar al-Assad approved a new media law that purportedly upholds freedom of expression and bans the arrest of journalists. Yet, less than a week later, a Syrian journalist and contributor to the pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat was arrested, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) reported [4], and dozens of others have followed. Also according to CPJ:

A close look to the legislation, Decree No. 108 [5], suggests the Assad regime is simply paying lip service to reform.

The announced reforms have had no effect on the ground, and the list of journalists and bloggers arrested and disappeared has never been longer.  Reporters Without Borders has also added President Bashar AlAssad to its list of Predators of Press Freedom, [6]that includes organizations and individuals “who cannot stand the press, treat it as an enemy and directly attack journalists.”

According to Syrian activist Rami Jarah (aka Alexander Page [7]), who was imprisoned twice in Damascus:

Over the past weeks the Syrian regime has performed a vicious crackdown against bloggers and social activists inside Syria. Those compromised and detained for such “acts of crime” are subjected to unbelievable hostility and usually tortured severely. It´s all part of Assad's lack of tolerance to freedom of speech. Online Activists use a number of different techniques to encrypt the data they are sending and receiving through Syria's one and only Internet Service provider: “Bashar Al Assad”.

On a blog [8] that activists have put together to demand the immediate disclosure of the fate of Hussein Ghrer and the release of all prisoners of conscience, they also refer to words as weapons in a context where freedom of speech is considered an enemy:

Fear of freedom and hatred against all liberties are responsible for Hussein´s detention. Words are Hussein´s weapons, and ours too. We want these weapons to break the silence. We command you to raise your voice for Hussein´s freedom and all prisoners of conscience in Syrian cells.