Journalist arrested; Syria crackdown continues

New York, April 14, 2011–Syrian authorities continued a weeks-long crackdown on journalists reporting on anti-government protests as security agents arrested another member of the news media on Saturday, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

Syrian authorities arrested Khaled Sid Mohand a freelance journalist who works for France-Culture, a French public radio station, and Le Monde, officials at the station told CPJ. Sid Mohand, an Algerian national living in Lebanon, frequently travels to Syria to cover news and cultural events, an official at the French station said. The government has given no justification for the arrest.

On Monday, the news website Sawt Al-Kurd was hacked by the ruling Baath party, the website reported. Hackers disrupted the chronology of the news articles and managed to delete a significant portion of the archives, Sawt Al-Kurd added.

“Syrian authorities continue to detain journalists on a regular basis in an effort to stem news of social unrest throughout the country,” said Mohamed Abdel Dayem, CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa program coordinator. “Detaining and otherwise harassing journalists and obstructing their work belies claims of imminent reforms by President al-Assad and other senior officials.”

On April 1, authorities released Doha Hassan, a photographer and journalist working for Orient TV, Syrian journalists told CPJ. Hassan was arrested on March 26 in Damascus with her husband, Zaher Omareen, the media director of the Damascus Film Festival and a lecturer at Damascus University. Omareen remained in custody, according to the same sources.

Repeating similar measures in previous weeks, the Syrian government disrupted phone service, Internet access, and electricity in Baniyas, Daraa, and other locales where protests have broken out, international media reported.  On Tuesday, multiple press reports said that security forces were continuing to block access to the northern coastal city of Baniyas and the neighboring village of Bayda, effectively preventing journalists from covering protests there.

In Yemen, several unidentified men attacked Al-Arabiya cameraman Mahmood Taha on Friday while he was covering the funeral of two youths who had died in anti-government protests, Taha told CPJ. The attackers approached him and asked that he stop filming. When he refused, they broke his camera and beat him. The Yemeni Journalists’ Syndicate condemned the attack and called on the Ministry of Interior to investigate.