Call for release of two jailed Internet users on Baath Party anniversary

first_img SyriaMiddle East – North Africa Toll of ten years of civil war on journalists in Syria News Receive email alerts News Reporters Without Borders is urging Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to immediately release Massoud Hamid et Abdel Rahman Shagouri as a goodwill gesture on the anniversary of the founding of the ruling Baath party on 8 March. A petition signed by 1,500 Syrians calling for democratic reforms and the lifting of the state of emergency will be handed in to the authorities the same day. Reporters Without Borders today urged Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to release two imprisoned Internet users as a goodwill gesture on the occasion of the 41st anniversary of the founding of the ruling Baath party on 8 March. The two detainees are journalism student Massoud Hamid, held secretly for the past seven months for posting a photograph on the Internet, and Abdel Rahman Shagouri, held for more than a year for e-mailing a newsletter put out by the banned website (Levant News).Reporters Without Borders also announced its support for a petition calling for political reforms and the lifting of the 21-year-old state of emergency, which will be sent to President Assad on 8 March and which has been signed by more than 1,500 people including intellectuals, human rights activists, lawyers and actors.Aksam Naysse, who heads the Committees for the Defence of Human Rights and Democratic Freedoms in Syria, has said the petition will be handed into the authorities during a sit-in in Damascus on 8 March. The Human Rights Association of Syria has also announced a day of protest against the martial laws that have been used to restrict civil and political freedoms for more than 40 years.The Baath Party, in power since 1963, keeps complete control of the news media. It issued an especially restrictive press decree in 2001 that prevents any questioning of the “interests of the Syrian people, the Baath party, national unity, the army forces and the policies adopted by President Hafez al-Assad.” Journalists who “report false information and falsify documents” are liable to imprisonment for one to three years.The print media, radio and television (which is a state monopoly) have no choice but to relay the regime’s messages. A law passed in early 2002 allows the operation of privately-owned radio stations but they can only broadcast music and advertisements.A satirical newspaper, Addomari, was launched in February 2001 but was forced to close two years later because of constant bureaucratic harassment. In the run-up to the US invasion of Iraq, the authorities placed a journalist in detention after he broached this sensitive subject. Ibrahim Hamidi, the Damascus bureau chief of the pan-Arab newspaper Al-Hayat, was imprisoned for five months, apparently the victim of rivalry between different security services.Foreign correspondents are also kept under surveillance in Syria and are subject to frequent pressure from the authorities. Many websites are censored. Syria was ranked in 155th position – 11th from the bottom – in a classification of 166 countries according to respect for press freedom which Reporters Without Borders published for the second year running in October 2003.————————————————————BackgroundShagouri was arrested on 23 February 2003 at a checkpoint near Damascus. He is being held in Saidnaya prison near Damascus pending appearance before the supreme court for state security, which is known for its summary justice.He was allegedly tortured while held at the so-called “Palestine Section” of Syrian military intelligence, sustaining a serious head injury. He is reportedly not being allowed any legal representation.Hamid, 29, a member of Syria’s Kurdish minority, was arrested during an exam at Damascus university on 24 July 2003. He has since been held without any official confirmation at Adra prison near Damascus and has allegedly been mistreated. His arrest took place a month after photographs of a peaceful Kurdish demonstration in Damascus were posted on a Kurdish-language site ( SyriaMiddle East – North Africa March 8, 2021 Find out more Wave of Kurdish arrests of Syrian journalists March 4, 2004 – Updated on January 20, 2016 Call for release of two jailed Internet users on Baath Party anniversarycenter_img News Help by sharing this information Organisation News to go further Follow the news on Syria Damascus TV presenter arrested under cyber-crime law March 12, 2021 Find out more RSF_en February 3, 2021 Find out morelast_img read more