Mazen Darwish

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Mazen Darwish
مازن درويش
Nationality Syrian
Occupation lawyer
Organization Center for Media and Freedom of Expression
Spouse(s) Yara Badr

Mazen Darwish (Arabic: مازن درويش‎) is a Syrian lawyer and free speech advocate. He is the president of the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression (CMFE).[1] News organizations including Reuters and the Associated Press have described him as one of Syria's most prominent activists.[2][3]

Activism[edit]

Darwish is the president of the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression (CMFE), a partner organization of Reporters Without Borders founded in 2004. The organization was refused accreditation by the Syrian government but continues to operate in secret.[4] In 2006, the group launched an independent news website, syriaview.net, but the site was soon banned by the Syrian government.[5]

In April 2008, Darwish and a colleague were arrested after their reporting on riots in Adra, a town near Damascus.[6][7] He was later imprisoned for ten days for "defaming and insulting the administrative bodies of the state."[7] Thirty-five international press freedom organizations co-signed a letter protesting the sentence, describing it as part of "an ongoing pattern of harassment and detention of journalists and activists."[6] Darwish has also been subject to travel bans to prevent him from leaving the country.[8]

He also reported on clashes in Daraa in early 2011, during the beginning stages of the Syrian civil war.[3] In March, he participated in a protest calling for political prisoners to be released, and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that he was arrested shortly after.[2]

2012 arrest[edit]

Darwish was arrested on 16 February 2012 by men believed to be from the intelligence arm of the Syrian Air Force.[1] Fifteen other journalists and activists were arrested on the same day, including blogger Razan Ghazzawi and Darwish's wife, journalist Yara Badr.[9] While Badr was released in May, Darwish was subject to forced disappearance with no official statements of his whereabouts or status.[1][10] The Switzerland-based International Commission of Jurists reported in August that Darwish was being tried before a secret military court and could face a death sentence with no appeal.[1]

Amnesty International designated Darwish a prisoner of conscience, "detained solely on account of his peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of expression and association in relation to his work with the CMFE."[10] More than twenty international human rights organizations, including the Arab Network for Human Rights Information, Human Rights Watch, Index on Censorship, the International Press Institute, Reporters Without Borders, and the World Organisation Against Torture, co-signed a letter calling for Darwish's immediate release.[11] Catherine Ashton, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy of European Union, also condemned the arrest, calling on Syria to release Darwish immediately.[12]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Tom Miles (8 August 2012). "Syrian free speech campaigner may face death penalty: ICJ". Reuters. Archived from the original on 18 August 2012. Retrieved 18 August 2012. 
  2. ^ a b "Syria arrests top free expression advocate". Reuters. 24 March 2011. Archived from the original on 18 August 2012. Retrieved 18 August 2012. 
  3. ^ a b "Syrian forces seal city after clashes kill 5". sify.com. Associated Press. 18 August 2012. Archived from the original on 18 August 2012. Retrieved 18 August 2012. 
  4. ^ "Independent Journalist Sentenced for Defamation". Reporters Without Borders. 24 June 2008. Archived from the original on 18 August 2012. Retrieved 18 August 2012. 
  5. ^ "Syria blocks independent news website: rights group". Sydney Morning Herald. Agence France-Presse. 24 June 2006. Archived from the original on 18 August 2012. Retrieved 18 August 2012. 
  6. ^ a b "Thirty-five members and partners of IFEX and the Arab Working Group call for support for journalists and activists facing harassment and detention prior to trial of human rights activist Mazen Darwish". International Freedom of Expression Exchange. 7 April 2008. Archived from the original on 18 August 2012. Retrieved 18 August 2012. 
  7. ^ a b "Red lines that cannot be crossed". The Economist. 24 July 2008. Archived from the original on 18 August 2012. Retrieved 18 August 2012. 
  8. ^ "Banning travel". The Economist. 30 September 2012. Archived from the original on 18 August 2012. Retrieved 18 August 2012. 
  9. ^ "Syria detains journalists, releases others". Committee to Protect Journalists. 14 May 2012. Archived from the original on 18 August 2012. Retrieved 18 August 2012. 
  10. ^ a b "Syrian Activist Faces Secret Military Court". Amnesty International. 10 August 2012. Archived from the original on 18 August 2012. Retrieved 18 August 2012. 
  11. ^ "Syrian Authorities Must Immediately and Unconditionally Release Darwish and Other Detained Activists". Reporters Without Borders. 23 February 2012. Archived from the original on 18 August 2012. Retrieved 18 August 2012. 
  12. ^ "EU HR Ashton condemns arrest of Mazen Darwish, head of Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression". European Union. 17 February 2012. Archived from the original on 18 August 2012. Retrieved 18 August 2012.