Journalist Rudy Othman was arrested on Thursday while covering a protest in Damascus like this one. (Reuters/Shaam News Network)

Syrian journalist beaten, arrested in Damascus

March 20, 2012 1:56 PM ET

New York, March 20, 2012--The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the assault and detention of Syrian journalist Rudy Othman by security forces and calls on authorities to release him immediately.

Syrian police beat and arrested Othman, a prominent freelance journalist, while he was covering a protest on Hamra Street in the capital, Damascus, on Thursday, Amer Matar, a journalist and Othman's friend, told CPJ, and local and international press freedom groups reported. The Syrian government has not disclosed any information on the journalist's whereabouts, legal status, or condition.

Othman, who covered the uprisings and daily events in Syria for several regional news outlets, has been detained twice before by Syrian authorities, the last time in October for four months, CPJ research shows.

"Syrian authorities are employing violence, detention, and intimidation against journalists to hide events from their own citizens and the rest of the world," said Mohamed Abdel Dayem, CPJ's Middle East and North Africa program coordinator. "Authorities should release Rudy Othman immediately and put a halt to their deplorable practice of violent censorship."

Syrian authorities continue to attack the local press. Nine journalists and activists were detained in Syria after a raid on the offices of the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression in February. The detainees have been denied access to their colleagues, family members, and lawyers, and no charges have been brought against them, news reports said. The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network reported that the detainees had been subjected to torture and mistreatment in government custody.

In its annual prison census conducted on December 1, 2011, CPJ identified at least other eight journalists imprisoned for their work in Syria, many of whom remain in detention.

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