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Head of media monitoring centre arrested in Damascus

Mazen Darwish was detained for four hours on the evening of March 22 after responding to a summons to report for questioning. He was previously held for several hours on March 16 after being arrested while attending a peaceful sit-in outside the interior ministry headquarters in Damascus as an observer.

Mazen Darwish, the head of the Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression, was summoned for questioning by intelligence officials at 11 a.m. Wednesday in Damascus and has not been heard of since. He has almost certainly been arrested, according to Paris-based press freedom group Reporters sans Frontières (RSF).

Darwish was detained for four hours on the evening of March 22 after responding to a summons to report for questioning. He was previously held for several hours on March 16 after being arrested while attending a peaceful sit-in outside the interior ministry headquarters in Damascus as an observer. His centre, the only NGO monitoring the media and Internet in Syria, has been closed by the authorities twice, in 2005 and 2009.

The Syrian authorities began on March 15 to crack down hard on journalists and media covering the anti-government demonstrations taking place in various cities, especial the southern city of Deraa, which is located near the Jordanian border. Darwish’s arrest brings the number of journalists arrested since the start of these protests to three.

Journalist, writer and activist Louay Hussein was arrested on March 22 in Damascus while journalist, poet and novelist Mohammed Dibo was arrested on the night of March 18 at his home in Al-Annazah, in the northwestern city of Baniyas. Dibo writes for various newspapers including Jordan’s Al-Dustour and many news websites such as Al-Waan (run by the Association of Rational Arabs), Bab el Moutawasset (Mediterranean Gate), Lamp Of Freedom and Shukumaku. These three join the already long list of journalists and cyber-dissidents imprisoned in Syria.

RSF has meanwhile learnt that a photographer and a freelance video reporter working for Agence France-Presse and an Associated Press photographer were briefly held and roughed up while covering the demonstrations in Deraa on March 22. Their equipment was seized and was handed back a few hours later. When the AFP journalists tried to return to Deraa Wednesday, their equipment was again seized. They have not yet been able to recover it.

Date posted: March 24, 2011 Last modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 43