Reporters Without Borders called today for the immediate release of Ibrahim Hamidi, Damascus bureau chief of the pan-Arab daily paper Al-Hayat, who was arrested in Syria on 23 December and, according to the government news agency SANA today, is to be tried for "putting out false news."
"In fact, he was arrested for putting out the truth and being too professional in his work," said a spokesman for the London-based paper. "We are very worried about his conditions of detention and also because Syrian law provides for one to three years in prison for publishing allegedly false news."
Hamidi (who is 33 and a Syrian) reported in a 20 December article on preparations by the Syrian authorities and the United Nations in northeastern part of the country to receive a million Iraqi refugees if Iraq was attacked. The paper printed a denial on 24 December by a spokesman for Syrian prime minister Mohamed Mustapha Miro that Syria or the Red Crescent were setting up hospitals and camps along the border with Iraq.