Stor bekymring for syriske kolleger

Styremedlem i Norsk PEN og forlagsredaktør i Aschehoug, Asbjørn Øverås, har nære forbindelser til syriske skribenter.  Han uttrykker nå sterk bekymring, blant annet for forfatteren, journalisten og dramatikerenSamar Yazbek.  Hun har fått publisert en dagbok fra opptøyene i Syria i arabiske medier.  Men etter et intervju hun ga til et italiensk magasin 24. april har det vært umulig å oppnå kontakt med henne.  Øverås er overbevist om at hun har fått utreisetillatelse, men er redd hun kan ha blitt arrestert.  Han forsøker nå å finne ut hva som kan ha skjedd henne gjennom hennes engelske oversetter i London.

I en forstad til Stockholm gjør den syriske poeten Faraj Bayrakdar alt han kan for å sørge for at beretninger og bilder fra revolusjonen i Syria når fram til internasjonale medier som er nektet adgang til landet.  «Jeg gråter med mitt folk, men gleder meg over det motet jeg ser», sier Bayrakdar i et intervju med Dagens Nyheter i dag (12.05).

Samtidig uttrykker PEN International stor bekymring og tar skarpt avstand fra drap, massearrestasjoner og forsvinninger blant sivile, blant dem mange journalister, bloggere og skribenter.  I en melding fra 11. mai ber PEN International om at alle borgere som har uttrykt sin mening om det syriske diktaturet gjennom fredelige demonstrasjoner, settes fri.  PEN Internationals etterforsker, Ghias Aljundi, er selv syrer og satt fenglset for sine meninger før han kom seg ut av landet.

Den engelske teksten følger her:

SYRIA: Journalists, bloggers and writers detained, fears for safety. 

PEN International’s Writers in Prison Committee (WiPC) strongly condemns the killing, mass arrests and disappearances of civilians including several journalists, bloggers, writers and activists in the crackdown on peaceful anti-government protests which has been taking place across Syrian cities since mid-March 2011. PEN is seriously concerned for the welfare of at least five journalists and bloggers arrested for writing about the protests. All are held incommunicado and considered to be at risk of torture and ill-treatment. There are mounting concerns for their safety. PEN calls for the immediate and unconditional release of all those currently detained in Syria for the peaceful exercise of their opinions, and urgently seeks guarantees of their safety. It reminds the Syrian authorities of their obligations to protect the right to freedom of expression as guaranteed by Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Syria is a signatory, and is alarmed at the apparent use of excessive force to suppress peaceful dissent.

According to PEN’s information, anti-government protests were sparked in mid- March 2011 and have since spread across the country. Mass arrests have been taking place and security officers have responded to the continuing protests with excessive force, using tear gas and live bullets to disperse demonstrators. Scores of civilians have reportedly been killed and many more wounded. The following journalists are amongst those believed to be currently detained:

Dorothy Parvaz: Aljazeera.net correspondent, arrested on 29 April 2011.
Mahmoud Issa: Journalist and writer, arrested on 19 April 2011.
Khaled Sid Mohand, freelance journalist for a number of news outlets including  Le Monde, arrested on 12 April 2011.
Zaid Mastu, Al-Arabiya net correspondent, arrested on 12 April 2011.
Mohamed Dibo: Journalist and writer, arrested on 12 April 2011.

With the internet and media already severely curtailed in recent years, the Syrian authorities have imposed even greater restrictions on freedom of expression and assembly in reaction to recent events. Foreign reporters and correspondents have been asked to leave the country and access to any independent media is denied.

Useful links:
Amnesty International statement (25 April 2011)
Amnesty International Statement (22 April 2011)
Latest BBC news report: Syrian army tanks ‘ moving towards Hama’ 

RECOMMENDED ACTION

Please send appeals immediately to the Syrian authorities:
Condemning the widespread arrest of journalists and bloggers for reporting on the recent protests, which the WiPC believes is a clear violation of their right to freedom of expression;
Calling on the Syrian authorities to investigate allegations of torture of detainees;
Calling for the release of all those currently detained in violation of Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to which Syria is a signatory.

APPEALS TO:
His Excellency President Bashar al-Assad
President of the Republic
Presidential Palace
Abu Rummaneh, Al-Rashid Street
Damascus, Syrian Arab Republic
Fax:                 + 963 11 332 3410

His Excellency Said Sammour
Minister of Interior, Ministry of Interior
Merjeh Circle
Damascus, Syrian Arab Republic
Fax:                 + 963 11 222 3428
Email:                admin@civilaffair-moi.gov.sy

Please copy appeals to the diplomatic representative for Syria in your country if possible.

For further information please contact Ghias Aljundi  at PEN International Writers in Prison Committee, Brownlow House, 50/51 High Holborn, London WC1V 6ER, Tel.+ 44 (0) 20 7405 0338, Fax: +44 (0) 20 7405 0339, email: Ghias.Aljundi@pen-international.org