Last Updated: Friday, 19 December 2014, 13:25 GMT

Annual Prison Census 2011 - Syria

Publisher Committee to Protect Journalists
Publication Date 8 December 2011
Cite as Committee to Protect Journalists, Annual Prison Census 2011 - Syria, 8 December 2011, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4f0420a7c.html [accessed 20 December 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Journalists in prison as of December 1, 2011

Syria: 8

Tal al-Mallohi, freelance
Imprisoned: December 27, 2009

Al-Mallohi, a journalistic blogger, was detained in December 2009 after she was summoned for questioning by security officials, according to local rights groups. In February 2011, she was sentenced by a state security court to five years in prison on a fabricated charge of "disclosing information to a foreign country that must remain a secret for national safety."

The private newspaper Al-Watan said in October 2010 that al-Mallohi was suspected of spying for the United States. But lawyers allowed into the closed-court session said the judge "did not give evidence or details as to why she was convicted," the BBC reported. The U.S. State Department condemned the trial, saying in a statement that the allegations of espionage were baseless.

Al-Mallohi's blog was devoted to Palestinian rights and was critical of Israeli policies. It also discussed the frustrations of Arab citizens with their governments and what she perceived to be the stagnation of the Arab world. Al-Mallohi's case gained widespread attention in the Arab blogosphere, on social media websites, and with human rights activists worldwide.

Mohamed-Jamal al-Tahan, Tishreen
Imprisoned: July 20, 2011

Two security agents arrested the veteran journalist al-Tahan at his home in Aleppo, according to news reports and human rights groups. An editor for the state-owned daily Tishreen, al-Tahan also contributed to several Arabic newspapers. He had written in support of the country's popular uprising, regional news media reported.

Al-Tahan's whereabouts, well-being, and legal status were unknown in late year. In November, regional news media said they had received unconfirmed but credible reports that al-Tahan may have died in detention. CPJ could not independently corroborate those reports.

Tariq Saeed Balsha, freelance
Imprisoned: August 19, 2011

Balsha, a freelance cameraman, was arrested in the coastal city of Latakia three days after he covered an episode in which government troops opened fire at Al-Raml Palestinian refugee camp, according to local press freedom groups.

Balsha's footage of demonstrations and authorities' efforts to quash the unrest have been posted to a number of websites, including the Shaam News Network, a loose-knit citizen news organization that has published thousands of videos documenting the popular unprising in Syria. Shaam's footage has been used by international news organizations such as Al-Jazeera and BBC.

In November, the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression reported that Balsha was being held at Latakia Central Prison. No charges had been disclosed by late year.

Adel Walid Kharsa, freelance
Imprisoned: August 22, 2011

Security forces arrested Kharsa in connection with his coverage of protests in Hama, according to human rights organizations. Kharsa's whereabouts, well-being, and legal status were unknown in late year, but Amnesty International said it was concerned he may have been tortured in detention.

Kharsa had been living in the United Arab Emirates until June, when he decided to move back to his hometown of Hama to report on the country's popular uprising. Amnesty International said Kharsa had tried working anonymously in his reporting for international news outlets, but his identity became known to Syrian intelligence officers.

Amer Matar, freelance
Imprisoned: September 3, 2011

Security forces in Damascus arrested Matar, a contributor to the pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat, according to local news outlets and CPJ interviews. Authorities did not disclose any formal charges or trial proceedings by late year.

Matar had covered protests in Damascus and was himself politically active, calling for peaceful anti-regime demonstrations on his Facebook page. He had previously been detained for more than two weeks in April 2011.

Jihad Jamal, freelance
Imprisoned: October 14, 2011

Jamal was arrested at a Damascus café along with Sean McAllister, a British reporter working for Channel 4. McAllister was released six days later, Channel 4 reported. McAllister said he last saw Jamal blindfolded and on his knees in an interrogation room in an unmarked building in central Damascus.

Jamal, a contributor to local news websites, also aggregated news stories for dissemination to international outlets, McAllister told CPJ. He had been arrested twice before in 2011, in March and August, the latter detention lasting for 60 days, McAllister said.

Hussein Ghrer, freelance
Imprisoned: October 24, 2011

Security forces arrested the prominent blogger Ghrer and brought him to a central Damascus prison, according to the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression and several journalists. Ghrer appeared before a magistrate on November 20, when he was charged with "weakening national sentiments," "forming an association without a permit," and "inciting demonstrations," according to the Syrian Center. He was transferred to the central prison in Adra, about 25 miles (40 kilometers) from Damascus.

Days before he was detained, Ghrer wrote on his blog: "Silence doesn't serve us after today. We don't want a country where we get imprisoned for uttering a word. We want a country that embraces and welcomes words." 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.

The Syrian Center said Ghrer suffers from coronary disease and high blood pressure and requires daily medications.

Alaa al-Khodr, Syrian Arab News Agency
Imprisoned: November 18, 2011

Security forces detained Alaa al-Khodr, local director for the official Syrian Arab News Agency in the eastern city of Deir al-Zour, according to news reports. On the day of his arrest, al-Khodr had resigned from his post to protest "the regime's human rights violations against civilians," Agence France-Presse reported. At a demonstration that day, he wore a sign on his chest that read "I am a Syrian journalist" and a sticker on his mouth to signify the regime's brutal repression.

The Syrian news agency has disputed reports of al-Khodr's arrest and the circumstances of his resignation. Al-Khodr's whereabouts, well-being, and legal status were unknown in late year.

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