Authorities raided the offices of the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression in Damascus and arrested several journalists and press freedom activists. Among those still being held in late 2012 were the center’s president, Darwish, the prominent blogger Ghrer, and three other journalists working for the center, al-Zitani, al-Omari, and Hamada. Authorities had not disclosed any charges against the detainees as of late year.
The Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression was instrumental in documenting the deaths and detentions of journalists after the popular uprising began in March 2011. The group also disseminated reports about the government’s suppression of news and commentary, providing important context as the regime sought to impose an international media blackout. The organization’s website has been inaccessible since April.
Security agents were holding Darwish and Ghrer in solitary confinement, according to news reports. Human rights groups said the two had been tortured and denied basic legal rights, including access to lawyer. In July, Ghrer waged a hunger strike to protest the ongoing detention, according to human rights groups.
In August 2012, human rights groups reported that Darwish’s case would be transferred to the Field Court, a military tribunal that holds proceedings in secret and without the presence of a defense lawyer. As of late year, it was unknown if the transfer took place.
Ghrer had been arrested previously, in October 2011, on charges of “weakening national sentiments,” “forming an association without a permit” and “inciting demonstrations.” His blog featured stories about other detained bloggers in Syria, the country’s popular uprising, and Israel’s occupation of Palestinian and Syrian territories, among other topics. Ghrer suffers from coronary disease and high blood pressure, requiring daily medications.
Authorities had not disclosed information on the other detainees’ whereabouts, legal status, or well-being as of late 2012.