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IFEX members sound alarm on worsening situation as cameraman found dead and prominent blogger detained

On 5 December, blogger Razan Ghazzawi was arrested and detained while trying to cross the border to attend a conference in Amman, Jordan
On 5 December, blogger Razan Ghazzawi was arrested and detained while trying to cross the border to attend a conference in Amman, Jordan

Following the mutilation and murder of a cameraman in Syria, which comes at a time when arrests and disappearances of free expression advocates are the order of the day, numerous IFEX members have called on the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to take measures to hold to account those responsible for the mass violations.

Among other requests, IFEX members have called on the UNHRC to hold a special session on Syria and deploy a human rights monitoring team on the ground. Additionally, the organisations are demanding the Security Council immediately refer crimes that fall under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court for prosecution.

A joint letter was sent to the UNHRC on 20 November that was led by the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) and signed by the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), the Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR) and Human Rights Watch, along with dozens of other civil society organisations around the world.

The joint statement was released just two days after the horrifying discovery of a Syrian cameraman's mutilated body. The body had been dropped on a main road in town with the right eye gouged out. Farzat Ejerban was last seen being arrested after filming protests in al-Qasir in Homs governorate during a weekend in which security forces killed at least four people, report ANHRI, CPJ and other IFEX members. Since the state violence began in Homs province early this year, Ejerban had courageously captured events in the province for numerous Arabic news channels, despite journalists being barred from the area.

The Syrian government is relentlessly pursuing those who dare to report on events as it continually loses its authority, IFEX members say. On 5 December, blogger Razan Ghazzawi was arrested and detained while trying to cross the border to attend a conference in Amman, Jordan, reports the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM), as well as ANHRI, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). Before being jailed herself, Ghazzawi, who is a media coordinator at SCM, documented the detentions of numerous other bloggers.

Many other journalists and advocates remain missing, including Lina Ibrahim, a journalist with "Tishreen" newspaper, and freelance reporter Wael Yousef Abaza, both of whom haven't been seen in more than a month, ANHRI reports. Another missing journalist, Mohamed Jamal Tahan, who was arrested in September, is rumoured to have died, although some of his supporters have denied the rumours, says RSF.

While some activists remain holed up in undisclosed locations, the Syrian government is publicly charging others. According to RSF, five activists, including some filmmakers and bloggers, appeared before the court in early December, though little to no information about the cases have been made available. According to ANHRI, recent charges handed down to freedom expression advocates include "undermining the state's prestige" and "inciting protests".

In a piece of good news, bloggers Rudy Osman, Assem Hamchou, Hanadi Zahlout, Hossein Ghoureir and Malak al-Shanawani as well as freelance journalist Omar al As'ad were released on 30 November and 1 December, according to RSF. They were among 900 prisoners and political opponents freed, reports RSF.

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