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IPI alarmed at reports of bloggers, journalists detained

(IPI/IFEX) - VIENNA 25 March 2011: At least six journalists and bloggers have been detained since the violent crackdown on protests in Daraa began several days ago, according to news reports, and one private television station has received threats from the Syrian authorities, a report on AlArabiya.net stated. Mazen Darwish, writer Louay Hussein, cameraman Maen Al-Ali and bloggers Khaled Elekhetayar and Ahmad Abu Al-Khair were all recently detained for allegedly supporting the demonstrations in southern Syria, according to online news reports and reports on micro-blogging website Twitter.

Hussein was released yesterday, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, and Darwish has also reportedly been freed.

Free expression advocate Mazen Darwish was detained "over the statements he made on arrests in Syria and the Daraa events," an AFP report quoted the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights as saying. Darwish is a journalist and activist, and a founder of the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression. He was taken into custody in Damascus on Wednesday, and released the following evening, press freedom group ARTICLE 19 tweeted today.

Writer Louay Hussein was arrested on Tuesday and released yesterday, a report on the website of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. He was reportedly arrested in connection with an online petition of solidarity for the Daraa protestors.

Journalist and blogger Khaled Elekhetayar was last seen on 21 March, and his Facebook page has been hacked, according to a post on Global Voices Online and a confirmation from journalist Remco Anderson via Twitter.

Syrian blogger Ahmed Mohammed Hudaifa, who writes under the name Ahmad Abu Al-Khair, has again been detained by security forces, Global Voices Online and the Observatory reported on 23 March. This would be the second detention in two months for Al-Khair, who runs Ahmadblogs - he was detained in February but was released on the 24th after spending two days in detention, the Observatory said.

A cameraman named Maen Al-Al was reportedly detained today, according to a tweet from Wissam Tarif, Executive Director of the Sevilla-based human rights group INSAN.

Meanwhile, employees of privately owned television channel Orient TV, which broadcasts from the United Arab Emirates, have received threatening phone calls from Syrian officials threatening to "hunt down and kidnap their families in Syria" if they do not resign, AlArabiya.net reported on its website on Tuesday.

"We are alarmed at the reports that journalists and bloggers are being threatened and detained in Syria to prevent news of the spreading unrest from getting out," said Anthony Mills, IPI Press Freedom Manager. "We call on the Syrian authorities to immediately release all journalists, bloggers and writers in its custody, so that they may report freely on the developments in Syria.
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