Syria Detains and Expels Reporters

by    /  July 20, 2011  / No comments

Omar al-Assad Photo:

The Syrian government has detained a local journalist who contributes to pan-Arab news outlets and expelled an international reporter in a crackdown that seems to be designed to silence global news coverage of the nation’s political crisis. Read the whole report from Committee to Protect Journalists.

According to Al Jazeera, Syrian journalist and activist Omar al-Asaad was arrested on the evening of July 3rd while attending the funeral for a protester that was killed in the Damascus suburb of al-Qaddam.

Friends of al-Asaad — a journalism student at the University of Damascus and writer for al-Bayan, As-Safir, Al-Hayat and Al Jazeera — expressed to Al Jazeera their fears about al-Asaad’s risk of torture while in detention.

According to Index on Censorship, “earlier in the year, Asaad exposed a famine affecting hundreds of thousands in north-east Syria, which the government had sought to minimize.”

Human rights lawyer Razan Zeitouneh said to Al Jazeera, that the arrest of al-Asaad — and hundreds of others in recent days — underscores the gap between what the regime says as it promises a “national dialogue” with protesters, and what it does… “The only dialogue the regime has conducted since the beginning of the uprising has been through arrests, bullets and the barrels of the tanks,” Zeitouneh said.

Maarten Zeegers. Photo:

News outlets around the world also denounced the detention of Maarten Zeegers, a Dutch national who writes for the Dutch daily NRC Handelsblad and the Belgian Flemish-language daily De Standaard.

Radio Netherlands Worldwide reported that Zeegers was detained on Monday July 11th in Damascus when he went to renew his visa. Zeegers had secretly written a number of articles on the uprising in Syria – all published anonymously for his personal safety – for Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad and Belgian Dutch-language daily De Standaard. He said he was held for about five hours before being expelled to Turkey.

“The Syrian authorities are systematically detaining local journalists and expelling foreign reporters in a ruthless attempt to stifle coverage of political protests,” said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Mohamed Abdel Dayem. “We are concerned for the wellbeing of Omar al-Assad who has disappeared into the black hole of the Syrian security apparatus. We call on the government to release him immediately.”

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