|Organization||Center for Media and Freedom of Expression|
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). News organizations including Reuters and the Associated Press have described him as one of Syria's most prominent activists. He was imprisoned in Syria from 2012 until his release in August 2015.
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. In 2006, the group launched an independent news website, syriaview.net, but the site was soon banned by the Syrian government.
In April 2008, Darwish and a colleague were arrested after their reporting on riots in Adra, a town near Damascus. He was later imprisoned for ten days for "defaming and insulting the administrative bodies of the state." 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." Darwish has also been subject to travel bans to prevent him from leaving the country.
He also reported on clashes in Daraa in early 2011, during the beginning stages of the Syrian Civil War. 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.
Darwish was arrested on 16 February 2012 by men believed to be from the intelligence arm of the Syrian Air Force. Fifteen other journalists and activists were arrested on the same day, including blogger Razan Ghazzawi and Darwish's wife, journalist Yara Bader. While Bader was released in May, Darwish was subject to forced disappearance with no official statements of his whereabouts or status. 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.
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." 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. 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.
2015 release and dropping of charges
Darwish was released from prison on 10 August 2015, although the charges were not dropped and he was scheduled to appear at a court hearing on 31 August 2015. On 31 August 2015 all charges against Darwish were dropped by an anti-terrorism court in Damascus. The court ruled that Darwish and his codefendents are covered under a political amnesty issued in 2014.
Awards and honors
- 2011 Roland Berger Human Dignity Award (shared with Tunisian lawyer Rhadia Nasraoui and The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information)
- 2014 Pinter International Writer of Courage Award (shared with Salman Rushdie) given by English PEN for "someone who has been persecuted for speaking out about [his or her] beliefs"
- In February 2015, the International Press Institute (IPI) named Darwish a World Press Freedom Hero.
- 2015 He was awarded UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize on World Press Freedom Day,May 3.
- 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.
- "Syria arrests top free expression advocate". Reuters. 24 March 2011. Archived from the original on 18 August 2012. Retrieved 18 August 2012.
- "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.
- "Independent Journalist Sentenced for Defamation". Reporters Without Borders. 24 June 2008. Archived from the original on 18 August 2012. Retrieved 18 August 2012.
- "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.
- "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.
- "Red lines that cannot be crossed". The Economist. 24 July 2008. Archived from the original on 18 August 2012. Retrieved 18 August 2012.
- "Banning travel". The Economist. 30 September 2012. Archived from the original on 18 August 2012. Retrieved 18 August 2012.
- "Syria detains journalists, releases others". Committee to Protect Journalists. 14 May 2012. Archived from the original on 18 August 2012. Retrieved 18 August 2012.
- "Syrian Activist Faces Secret Military Court" (PDF). Amnesty International. 10 August 2012. Archived (PDF) from the original on 18 August 2012. Retrieved 18 August 2012.
- "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.
- "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.
- "Mazen Darwish, prominent Syria human rights activist, freed". BBC News. 10 August 2015. Retrieved 17 March 2016.
- Flood, Allison (11 August 2015). "Salman Rushdie cheers release of Mazen Darwish from jail in Syria". The Guardian. Retrieved 17 March 2016.
- "All charges against Mazen Darwish and colleagues dropped". International Media Support (IMS). 2 September 2015. Retrieved 17 March 2016.
- Alison Flood (10 October 2014). "Salman Rushdie to share PEN Pinter prize with Mazen Darwish". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 February 2015.
- "Syrian Mazen Darwish named IPI World Press Freedom Hero". Retrieved 2016-09-15.
- "Single View News - United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization". www.unesco.org.