Syrian agreement must be monitored for press freedom

New York, November 2, 2011–The Syrian government’s acceptance of an Arab League proposal to end a crackdown on unrest must be closely monitored by international and domestic media, said the Committee to Protect Journalists in response to news of the agreement today. The measures include granting media access to the country as well as the release of political prisoners, among them an undetermined number of journalists. 

“Granting international media access is a positive first step, but Damascus must also guarantee that all journalists can report without restrictions or repercussions,” said CPJ Middle East and North Africa program coordinator Mohamed Abdel Dayem. “To truly comply with this agreement, the government must also release all journalists and refrain from further harassment. Not doing so would signal a lack of commitment to the agreement and in effect silence independent news on Syria’s reality.”

Since the start of protests in Syria in March, when the government instituted a media blackout, CPJ has documented the detention and disappearance of scores of journalists and bloggers, as a senior presidential advisor accused all non-state media of dishonest reporting.