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Photographer and film producer Guevara Nemer detained

(ANHRI/IFEX) - ANHRI condemns the ongoing targeting of opinion makers, media professionals and artists in Syria, expressing its concern over the grave situation of freedom of opinion and expression in the country.

On 8 December 2011, immigration authorities arrested photographer and film producer Guevara Nemer as she was on her way to the United Arab Emirates to attend the Dubai Film Festival, to which she and other Syrian artists and media professionals had been invited. The arrest was based on an order issued by the political security police force.

It is worth noting that Nemer was previously arrested on 13 July as she was participating in an "intellectuals' demonstration" in the district of Al-Midan. She was released on bail to be tried before the al-Solh court in Damascus on charges of "unauthorised demonstration", "incitement" and "provocation to riot".

This is not the first time that an artist, media professional or opinion maker has been arrested. Syrian activist and blogger Razan Ghazawi was arrested on 4 December by immigration police at the Syria-Jordan border as she was on her way to the Forum of Media Freedom Defenders in the Arab World in Amman, organised by the Center for Defending the Freedom of Journalists.

Ghazawi is a media coordinator at the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression. She launched her own blog, Razaniyyat, in 2009. She is also a member of the A Club for Everyone cultural committee and winner of a poetry award from the University of Balamand in Lebanon. Her detention is part of an organised campaign by Bashar al-Assad's regime against bloggers, media professionals, opinion makers and the mass media, says ANHRI.

On 23 November, the Syrian authorities seized copies of the "Baladna" newspaper from newsstands because of an article written by Bassam Jenny. The head of the National Media Council, Taleb Kadi Amin, said the decision came in response to Jenny's "insults" against Baath party affiliates, whom the writer described as "a group of thieves who looted the country".

On 20 November, security forces killed photographer Farzat Ejerban and gouged out his right eye, a day after they arrested him in Qasir, in the Homs governorate. Passersby found his body lying on the road, mutilated and brutally tortured. Ejerban regularly photographed and documented events in Homs, and reported on them for Arab media outlets.

On 17 November, activist and blogger Hussein Ghrer was referred by the State Security Administration to the civil courts for trial. He was detained on 27 October after he wrote in his blog: "Silence doesn't serve us after today. We don't want a country where we get imprisoned for uttering a word. We want a country that embraces and welcomes words."

"The ongoing repression of freedoms by the authorities is a clear violation of freedom of opinion and expression. This illegitimate regime is using all its means of oppression against the popular uprising against dictatorship and corruption," said ANHRI. "Media professionals, creative people and opinion makers are exposed to all kinds of measures to gag and stop them from supporting the popular uprising," added ANHRI.

ANHRI calls for all human rights organisations to stand together to expose these violations of the rights of the Syrian people.
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