Syria arrests 14 in attempt to block news

New York, February 16, 2012–The Committee to Protect Journalists is alarmed by the arrests of 14 journalists, bloggers, and press freedom activists with the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM). The group has played a key role in getting out information about daily developments in Syria as foreign journalists are virtually banned from the country.

“These arrests are a blatant attempt to close off a vital source of information not only for Syrians but for the international media,” said CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney. “Anyone, whether a professional journalist or citizen with a mobile phone, who dares to report on the unrest in Syria is in danger of arrest or physical violence. Damascus should immediately release all those detained and stop its brutal crackdown.”

Mazen Darwish, the director of SCM, was arrested along with 13 others when security forces raided the organization’s office in Damascus on Thursday, according to media reports. Among those arrested with Darwish was his wife, Yara Badr, U.S.-born blogger Razan Ghazzawi, and freelance journalist Hanadi Zahlout, according to regional news reports.