Freedom House Alarmed By Arrest of 14 Syrian Activists

Freedom House is outraged by the arrest on February 16 of 14 Syrian bloggers, journalists, and activists affiliated with the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM). Among those detained were prominent activist and SCM Director Mazen Darwish and his wife, US-born blogger Razzan Ghazzawi, and journalist Hanadi Zahlout. According to media and activists reports, Air Force intelligence forces raided SCM’s offices in Damascus.  All detainees are being held incommunicado, and have been denied access to lawyers and medical assistance.  Freedom House demands their swift release and emphasizes their right to freedom from torture and abuse. The SCM is one of the few remaining human rights organizations operating within Syria and has provided critical reporting on the ongoing government crackdown on journalists since the outbreak of demonstrations in March 2011. Freedom House is deeply concerned for the health of Ms. Zahlout, who was released in December 2011 after serving a four-month prison sentence; she is suffering from severe injuries resulting from torture during her detention.

According to the United Nations, more than 5,000 people have been killed and 25,000 displaced during the 11-month campaign by the authoritarian Syrian regime attempting to maintain its grip power.  On Thursday, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution calling for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down, blaming the government for “widespread and systematic” human rights violations. A similar resolution brought before the UN Security Council was blocked earlier in the week by allies of the Syrian government, Russia and China. Freedom House calls on the international community to demand the immediate release of all political prisoners and the cessation of violence against citizens exercising their rights to freedom of expression and association.

Learn more:

Freedom in the World 2011: Syria

Freedom of the Press 2011: Syria