Both SCM employees, Hussein Ghreer and Hani Al-Zitani are among the hundreds of detainees held on terrorism charges whose release in still unclear circumstances coincided with the Eid-Al-Fitr religious holiday. RSF has not been able to obtain any information as to Mazen Darwish’s current status.
“We are delighted by the unexpected news of the release of Ghreer and Al-Zitani, who had been unjustly held for more than three years,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said.
“Despite this wave of releases, we must not forget Mazen Darwish and the others who are still being held, and the inhuman treatment they receive in the Syrian regime’s jails. We call for the immediate and unconditional release of Darwish and all the other imprisoned journalists.”
Darwish, Ghreer and Al-Zitani were arrested along with all of the SCM’s employees when air force intelligence officers raided its Damascus headquarters on 16 February 2012.
They were subjected to enforced disappearance after their arrest, and were mistreated and tortured. Their trial on a charge of “publishing information about terrorist acts” finally began in February 2013, but it was suspended and then repeatedly postponed. Two of their colleagues, Mansour Omari and Abd al-Rahman Hamada, were released on bail on 6 February 2013 pending trial.
At least 30 journalists and bloggers continue to be held in the regime’s many jails. According to RSF’s tally, at least 25 others (including six foreigners) are either missing or being held hostage by Islamic State or other armed extremist groups.
Ranked 177th out of 180 countries in the 2015 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index, Syria continues to be one of the world’s most dangerous countries for journalists.