Syrian cameraman killed; last seen being arrested

New York, November 21, 2011–A Syrian cameraman was found dead Sunday with his eyes gouged out in the town of al-Qasir, according to several news reports. Ferzat Jarban, who was last seen being arrested, is the first journalist to be killed in Syria since CPJ started documenting journalist fatalities in 1992.

Jarban was filming anti-regime protests in al-Qasir in Homs governorate when authorities arrested him Saturday, local press freedom groups reported, citing witnesses. The next morning, residents found his severely mutilated body on a main road of the town, a member of the opposition Syrian revolutionary council in Homs told the London-based daily Al-Sharq al-Aswat and other news reports said. The council member said Jarban was unharmed at the time of his arrest. According to the Syrian local coordination committee, which documents human rights violations, at least four people were killed by security forces in al-Qasir on Sunday.

Jarban was a freelance cameraman who filmed demonstrations and the ensuing clashes with security forces in Homs and send the footage to several Arabic news networks, Al-Sharq al-Aswat reported.

“The brutal murder of Ferzat Jarban illustrates the lengths to which the Syrian government will go in its efforts to suppress independent reporting,” said Mohamed Abdel Dayem, CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa program coordinator. “We demand the release of all journalists who remain in custody and hold the government accountable for their well-being.”

In an unrelated incident, Hussein Ghrer, a prominent blogger who disappeared on October 24, was brought from a central Damascus prison to a civilian court on November 17, the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression reported. However, the court closed before his questioning began and he is now awaiting trial in the central prison of Adra, 25 miles (40 kilometers) from Damascus, the Center said. The charges against him aren’t known.

CPJ has reported the arrest and disappearance of several journalists in Syria over the past several months. Many have disappeared without further news of their alleged crimes, whereabouts, or condition. CPJ continues to investigate several of these cases.