Amer Matar (Karim al-Afnan)
Amer Matar (Karim al-Afnan)

Syrian journalist arrested, held without charge

New York, September 6, 2011–The Committee to Protect Journalists is concerned by Saturday’s arrest of a Syrian journalist without charge and the continued reports of missing journalists in Syria.

Amer Matar, contributor to the pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat, was arrested by Syrian security forces in Damascus on Saturday, the Guardian of London reported. Matar, who is also a political activist, has worked with youth groups in Syria calling for peaceful anti-regime demonstrations and has called for demonstrations on his Facebook page. Before his arrest, he emailed his friend, Karim al-Afnan, a Syrian journalist banned from Syria, a copy of his will and said, “I may not come back from Friday prayers.”

Al-Afnan told CPJ that he received confirmation of Matar’s arrest from his friends and family and that he last spoke to his friend on Saturday, hours before he was arrested. CPJ was not immediately able to confirm the basis for Matar’s arrest.

Al-Afnan told CPJ that another colleague, journalist Omar al-Assad, who has contributed to Al-Hayat and the Lebanese daily As-Safir, was arrested by Syrian security forces on August 4 in the Al-Shaalaan district of Damascus. Al-Assad had also called for anti-regime demonstrations on his Facebook page, al-Afnan told CPJ.

“The arrests of Amer Matar and Omar al-Assad, without explanation or due process, lack legal basis and are tantamount to official kidnappings,” CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney. “We hold the government responsible for their well-being and call for their immediate release.”

Matar had previously been arrested by security forces on April 1 and detained without charge, CPJ reported. He was later released on April 18. Al-Assad had been detained on July 3, according to local and regional news outlets. The condition and whereabouts of both journalists remain unknown.