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Head of free expression organisation charged with "libelling state bodies" over article on January 2008 riots

(HRinfo/IFEX) - HRinfo is appalled by the Syrian authorities' insistence on having a military tribunal examine charges against journalist Mazen Darwish, head of the Syrian Centre for Media Freedom and Freedom of Expression. He is accused of "libelling and defaming the state's bodies" by publishing a feature report about the January 2008 riots in Damascus, and for criticising the security bodies' failure to protect the citizens killed in those riots.

The military court convened for the Darwish trial on 17 March adjourned the session until 15 April, when it will hear witnesses.

HRinfo said that "conducting military tribunal proceedings against a journalist on such shallow accusations, illustrates how journalists and human rights activists suffer from the autocratic government. This type of violation must be unmasked."

It is noteworthy that Darwish has been the target of much harassment and surveillance because of his prominent activity related to defending freedom of expression in Syria. In May 2007, he was prevented from traveling, and then he was detained in January 2008.

Security forces tried to compel him to amend his feature report about the January riots. When he refused to bow to their pressure, they fabricated this unjust case against him. This is a clear-cut violation of press freedom and of Darwish's right to work without surveillance or detention by security bodies.

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