Letters   |   Syria

CPJ alarmed by detention of Syrian blogger

September 23, 2010 

Bashar al-Assad
President of the Syrian Arab Republic
C/o Embassy of Syria
2215 Wyoming Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20008

Via facsimile: +1 202-265-4585 

Your Excellency,

The Committee to Protect Journalists, a New York-based nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to defending press freedom worldwide, is deeply concerned about the ongoing extrajudicial detention of Tal al-Mallohi, a Syrian blogger who has been held incommunicado for the past nine months. We call on you to instruct the proper authorities to ensure that al-Mallohi is afforded all her rights in accordance with Syrian law.

Article 28 of Syria's constitution states unambiguously that individuals can only be detained in accordance with the law. Al-Mallohi has been held for nine months without charge or details on her whereabouts. We ask that her whereabouts and information on her health be fully disclosed, and that she be given access to counsel and her family. In the absence of any publicly disclosed charges, we further ask that she be released without delay.

Al-Mallohi, 19, was detained in December 2009 after she was summoned for questioning by security officials, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Two days after her detention, security agents searched her house and confiscated her computer, according to Reuters. Al-Mallohi's detention stems from material she posted on her blog, according to multiple news websites.

Much of Al-Mallohi's blog is devoted to Palestinian rights and is critical of Israeli policies. It also includes indirect references to the frustrations of Arab citizens with their governments and the stagnation of the Arab world. In one of her blog entries, al-Mallohi criticized the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership, a European diplomatic initiative that brings together countries of the Mediterranean. In January 2009 entries, she focused on the conditions facing Palestinians in Gaza during the conflict with Israeli forces.

On September 1, al-Mallohi's mother appealed to you to release her daughter: "I plead with you to save my daughter's life," she wrote in a letter posted on the website of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. "I am not able to describe the disaster that has befallen our entire family and the amount of suffering we are going through."

Al-Mallohi's situation is not unique. We raised similar concerns in a letter to you in July, noting detentions of journalists and bloggers for critical work and the continued censorship of Internet content in Syria.

Al-Mallohi's case is gaining widespread attention in the Arab blogosphere, on social networks, and among human rights activists throughout the world. On Sunday, Egyptian activists organized a protest in front of the Syrian Embassy in Cairo calling for al-Mallohi's release. The protestors tried unsuccessfully to deliver a letter to you through the Syrian ambassador in Cairo. The letter appears on the website of the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information.

Mr. President, we urge you to take decisive action now to end speculation about this young blogger's fate.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter. We look forward to your reply.

Sincerely,

Joel Simon
Executive Director

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