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Woman blogger abducted in continuing crackdown on coverage of protests

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders condemns the abduction of the well-known blogger Amina Arraf, who blogs under the name of Amina Abdalla 8 and who holds dual US and Syrian citizenship. She was kidnapped by three gunmen as she was going to a meeting on 6 June 2011 in Damascus.

The press freedom organisation has no information about the location to which she was taken by her abductors, who were probably government thugs.

"There are absolutely no grounds for Amina Arraf's abduction or for the abduction of dozens of other bloggers and journalists in Syria," Reporters Without Borders said. "Like many other netizens, Arraf blogged about her everyday life and, of late, about the events shaking her country. This should not have led to her disappearance. We call for the immediate and unconditional release of the dozens of bloggers and journalists currently detained in Syria and we call on the Syrian authorities to end the abuses against them."

In her blog, "A Gay Girl in Damascus", Arraf had been describing the current turmoil in Syria. Her posts had been getting more critical of the government and she had even called for its departure. In a blog entry about the disconnection of the Internet on 3 June, she wrote: "They must go, they must go soon. That is all there is to say."

She narrowly escaped arrest on 25 April when two men came to her home to take her away. Her father managed to convince them to leave. A page calling for her release has been created on Facebook: Free Amina Abdalla ( ).

Reporters Without Borders also condemns the suspension of Internet service that began on 3 June and lasted 24 hours. It was clearly ordered by the government. Most Internet connections use the service provided by Syriatel, which is owned by President Bashar Al-Assad's cousin, Rami Makhlouf.
The press freedom organisation is also worried about the blogger Kamal Sheikhou. Freed on bail on 13 March, he was due to appear in court on 30 May on a charge of "publishing information liable to defame the nation." It is not known what happened to him.

Jehad Jamal, a journalist and blogger known by the pseudonym "Milan", meanwhile continues to be detained. He was arrested in the Milano Café in Aleppo on 5 May after the authorities managed to get into his Facebook account and take it over. The owner of the computer he was using at the time of his arrest, Jilal Siris, has also been detained.

The government has nonetheless tried to repair its image by making a few concessions, including a presidential amnesty on 31 May. Ali Al-Abdallah, a journalist and writer who was serving a three-year jail sentence on a charge of "trying to harm Syria's relations with another state," was freed under this amnesty on 4 June.

Syria is on the list of "Enemies of the Internet" that Reporters Without Borders released on 12 March.
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