New York, May 1, 2012–Syrian security forces harassed a credentialed camera crew from the British broadcaster Sky News as the team was filming an impromptu demonstration in Damascus today, according to news reports. Authorities briefly confiscated a camera and detained two journalists, the reports said.
A uniformed officer with a gun approached the Sky News team and “violently” ripped the camera away, Tim Marshall, foreign editor for Sky News, reported. A group of plainclothes and uniformed security forces surrounded the team and briefly detained two Sky News crew members in a nearby courthouse, the report said. The camera was later returned to the crew, Marshall posted on his Twitter account.
The broadcaster reported that the Syrian government had given Marshall and the Sky News team the media credentials to work in Damascus. The regime has sought to impose a blackout on news coverage by controlling local media and denying entry to international journalists, according to CPJ research, but the U.N. six-point peace plan has called on the government to grant visas to journalists and allow them to work freely in the country, news reports said.
“The Syrian regime must stop harassing journalists who have been granted permission to work in the country,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “Authorities must respect the rights of journalists and allow them to work freely without any fear of reprisal.”
In a separate attack, the Syrian Electronic Army hacked the personal Facebook account of prominent cartoonist Ali Ferzat on Friday and deleted the official fan page “Friends of the artist Ali Ferzat,” according to news reports. Ali Ferzat, who was severely beaten by masked men last August, is renowned in the Arab world for his caricatures of authoritarian leaders, including Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.