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Dissident journalist Michel Kilo sentenced to three years in jail

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders has voiced outrage over the three-year prison term imposed 13 May 2007 on journalist and writer Michel Kilo for "weakening national sentiment". Another dissident, Mahmud Issa, also got a three-year jail term.

"There is something seriously wrong with a justice system that imposes long jail terms on anyone who dares to express views that are not in line with Baathist thinking," the press freedom organisation said. "Journalists and human rights activists have virtually no room to manoeuvre. Kilo's conviction is yet further evidence, if any were needed, of government intervention in judicial matters."

Reporters Without Borders added: "We appeal to President Bashar Al-Assad - who is holding an entirely predictable referendum in two weeks that will allow him to continue his reign - to pardon prisoners of conscience and to put an end to the constant harassment of the most outspoken journalists."

Kilo and Issa were arrested in May 2006 after signing the "Beirut-Damascus, Damascus-Beirut" appeal for a radical overhaul of relations between Syria and Lebanon. Another signatory, human rights lawyer Anwar al-Bunni, received a five-year prison sentence on 24 April.

Reporters Without Borders established a system of sponsorship 16 years ago in which international media were encouraged to adopt imprisoned journalists. More than 200 news organisations, journalists' associations, press clubs and other institutions throughout the world are currently supporting journalists by regularly calling on the authorities to release them and by publicising their cases.

Kilo has been adopted by "Le Pèlerin" (France), France Bleu Azur (France), various Spanish forums, the Almería Press Association (Spain) and the Calafell City Hall (Spain).

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