11 May 2011
PEN International's Writers in Prison Committee (WiPC) strongly condemns the killing, mass arrests and disappearances of civilians including several journalists, bloggers, writers and activists in the crackdown on peaceful anti-government protests which has been taking place across Syrian cities since mid-March 2011. PEN is seriously concerned for the welfare of at least five journalists and bloggers arrested for writing about the protests. All are held incommunicado and considered to be at risk of torture and ill-treatment. There are mounting concerns for their safety. PEN calls for the immediate and unconditional release of all those currently detained in Syria for the peaceful exercise of their opinions, and urgently seeks guarantees of their safety. It reminds the Syrian authorities of their obligations to protect the right to freedom of expression as guaranteed by Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Syria is a signatory, and is alarmed at the apparent use of excessive force to suppress peaceful dissent.
According to PEN's information, anti-government protests were sparked in mid- March 2011 and have since spread across the country. Mass arrests have been taking place and security officers have responded to the continuing protests with excessive force, using tear gas and live bullets to disperse demonstrators. Scores of civilians have reportedly been killed and many more wounded. The following journalists are amongst those believed to be currently detained:
Dorothy Parvaz: Aljazeera.net correspondent, arrested on 29 April 2011.
Mahmoud Issa: Journalist and writer, arrested on 19 April 2011.
Khaled Sid Mohand, freelance journalist for a number of news outlets including Le Monde, arrested on 12 April 2011.
Zaid Mastu, Al-Arabiya net correspondent, arrested on 12 April 2011.
Mohamed Dibo: Journalist and writer, arrested on 12 April 2011.
With the internet and media already severely curtailed in recent years, the Syrian authorities have imposed even greater restrictions on freedom of expression and assembly in reaction to recent events. Foreign reporters and correspondents have been asked to leave the country and access to any independent media is denied.
- Amnesty International statement (25 April 2011): http://www.amnesty.org/en/news-and-updates/syrian-military-assault-against-protesters-must-end-2011-04-25
- Amnesty International Statement (22 April 2011): http://www.amnesty.org/en/news-and-updates/scores-killed-syria-great-friday-protests-are-attacked-2011-04-22
- Latest BBC news report: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-13343540