Reporters Without Borders is relieved by yesterday’s release of six opposition figures including the journalist and writer Fayez Sara, who was arrested on 11 April, and the blogger Kamal Sheikhou, who was arrested on 11 April. They were freed on payment of 5,000 pounds (73 euros) each in bail. Hazem Nahar, who also blogs (http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?hl=ar&q=cache:KnByyAA48PEJ:...), was also released. He was arrested on 28 April.
The press freedom organization nonetheless continues to be very concerned about all the other people still held by the authorities and those whose whereabouts are not known.
The most disturbing case is that of Dorothy Parvaz, a journalist with US, Canadian and Iranian nationality who works for Al-Jazeera English. She has been missing since her arrival at Damascus airport on 29 April. Al-Jazeera has denied yesterday’s report in the government newspaper Al-Watan that she left the country on 1 May “without saying where she was going (http://www.alwatan.sy/dindex.php?idn=100992).”
If Parvaz left Syria, as the authorities say, they would be able to produce evidence of this. The claim that she departed without any mention of where she was going is completely lacking in credibility. Since when do the Syrian authorities not know the destination of passengers leaving on flights from Damascus international airport?
The Syrian government must explain what has happened to this journalist, from whom no one has heard anything for the past 12 days. There is concern that the authorities used the fact that she entered Syria on her Iranian passport to deport her to Iran. This is the Facebook page calling for her release: http://www.facebook.com/FreeDorothy?sk=wall).
The following are still held:
- The Syrian journalist and writer Ammar Mashour Dayoub, who was arrested on 9 May while taking part in a demonstration by about 100 people in Arnous Square, in central Damascus.
- Malak Al-Shanawani, a woman journalist and activist who was arrested on 9 May.
- Ghadi Frances, a woman journalist working for the Lebanese daily Al-Safir who was arrested in Damascus on the afternoon of 7 May.
- The Syrian writer and journalist Omar Koush, who was arrested on 2 May on his arrival at Damascus airport after attending a conference in Turkey.
- The Syrian journalist and blogger Jehad Jamal, also known by the pseudonym of Milan, who was arrested in the café Milano in Aleppo on 5 May. The owner of the computer Jamal was using at the time of his arrest, Jilal Siris, was also arrested, as was the owner of the Internet connection he was using. The authorities tried to find out the password he was using in order to gain access to his email and Facebook accounts. Reporters Without Borders has been told that the authorities succeeded in gaining control of his Facebook account.
- Mohamed Zaid Mistou, a Norwegian journalist of Syrian origin arrested on 7 April.
There is still no news of the journalists Akram Abu Safi and Sobhie Naeem Al-Assal, who have been missing since 24 March.
Reporters Without Borders condemns yesterday’s decision by the Bahraini authorities to expel German journalist Frederik Richter, the Reuters correspondent in Manama since 2008, for alleged bias in his coverage of the pro-democracy protest movement. He has been given a week to leave. “Reuters regrets Bahrain’s decision to expel its correspondent,” editor-in-chief Stephen Adler said, adding that the agency stood by his reporting.
The Information Affairs Authority nonetheless insists that it is not closing down Reuters’ operations in Manama and is prepared to accredit another correspondent appointed by the agency.
Monica Pietro of the Spanish daily El Mundo was denied entry on arrival at Manama airport on 9 May and was sent back to Spain the next day. Read her account in Spanish: http://www.elmundo.es/elmundo/2011/05/10/comunicacion/1305059020.html.
Reporters Without Borders strongly condemns the government’s attempts to obstruct news media that are trying to cover the pro-democracy protests in Bahrain and urges it to allow foreign journalists to enter the country and work without any restrictions.
Ali Omid, a young blogger and activist who heads the Ali AlAsghar Society and moderates its online forum (http://alialasghar.us/vb), which has been blocked in Bahrain since 2009, was arrested at his home in Muharraq at 1:30 a.m. yesterday and was taken to an undisclosed location. A solidarity page has been created on Facebook: http://on.fb.me/ke1pOG