Syria: Video Activist killed, Mass Arrests and Two Journalists Freed

The Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression has learned that the prominent video activist Farzat Jarban was killed after he was detained by Air Force intelligence services in Homs on 19-11-2011.

Given that Jarban was in good health at the time of his arrest, his sudden death on the following day makes us to believe that he has been executed. His body was severely mutilated with his eyes gouged out, as showed in a video of him posted by activists on Youtube. He was found dead on the main road near the Al-Ahli hospital in Al-Quseir, Homs province.

Ferzat Jarban was known as a video activist who posts videos of demonstrations taking place in Homs. In each video he posts online, he describes, in his distinctive voice, the location and the date of each demonstration.

In another news, the Syrian authorities has detained Alaa Khoder, Syrian Arab News Agency’s correspondent in Deir Al-Zour, on 18-11-2011 in Deir al-Zour after submitting his resignation in protest of “the regime’s human rights violations against civilians," as mentioned in a statement by the Local Coordination Committees. Khoder put a sticker on his mouth and hung a sign on his chest that read: "I am a Syrian journalist,” as a rejection to regime’s oppressions against freedom of speech in Syria.

Shortly after the news of Khoder’s arrest, SANA denied "the arrest of the director of its office in Deir Al-Zour," saying that the director of its office there is "the journalist Lamia Raddawi and not Khoder." The agency added that "Khoder resigned from the agency five months ago to work at the University of the Euphrates in Deir Al-Zour.” SANA concluded that “Khoder has no whatsoever relationship with its office in Deir Al-Zour."

However, friends and colleagues of the detained journalist Alaa Khoder confirmed on a video posted on Youtube that although Khoder stepped down as a director of SANA’s office in Der Al-Zour five months ago and in protest of the agency’s non-professional coverage of latest events, he was nonetheless still working at the agency until he announced his resignation.

The following is the text of the letter published by Khoder’s friends on a Youtube video in which the detained journalist appears in a demonstration in Deir Al-Zour:

"In response to SANA’s statement in which it denies that Alaa Khoder is the director of its office in Deir Al-Zour yet does not deny the news of his arrest, we, fellow journalists and friends of the brave Alaa Khoder, confirm that Khoder has indeed stepped down from his post as director of SANA’s office in Deir Al-Zour in a phone call with the Minister of Information Adnan Mahmoud five months ago in protest of SANA’s inflammatory and unfair coverage of the events in Deir Al-Zour. Nevertheless, Alaa Khoder continued to work in the office as a journalist, without taking part in covering the revolution, and this is what SANA missed in its statement, just as it overlooked Khoder’s arrest. The video presented above is the reason why Alaa Khoder’s was detained: participating in demonstration in Deir Al-Zour where he put a sticker on his mouth and hung a sign on his chest that read: "I am a Syrian journalist.” Freedom to the hero and journalist Alaa Khoder!"

 In similar news, journalist Kamal Sheikho was detained in Damascus on 13-11-2011 for unknown reasons, he was released the following day. Note that this is Sheikho’s third arrest since the outbreak of Syrian revolution.

In Homs, the political security forces have detained the neurosurgeon Hassoun Jalal Nagar on 9-7-2011 after his talk on the satellite channels, he was released on 18-8-2011.

Similarly in Latakya, faculty member in the Faculty of Mechanical and Electrical Engineering Nihad Mohammed Kurdiyyah was detained on 18-8-2011 prior to a telephone interview that was scheduled with Al-Jazeera. Kurdiyyah was detained by security forces after he was severely beaten up and no information has come to light about him since that day.

As for the Syrian blogger Hussein Greer, he was transferred from the State Security Department in Damascus to Adra central prison and has appeared once before the investigation judge on Sunday 20-11-2011. He was accused of “weakening the national feeling, forming an association without a permit and demonstrating and inciting to protest.” Ghrer denied all charges.

On the other hand, Syrian journalists Wael Yousef Abazah was released on 5-11-2011 and Lina Ibrahim was released on 16-11-2011. They were both detained on 25-10-2011 and taken to the State Security Branch in Damascus. Reasons behind their arrest are still unknown.

The Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression strongly condemns the brutal killing of the Syrian video activist Farzat Jarban and demands an immediate transparent investigation for such crime and asserting that those responsible for such murder have to be brought to justice as soon as possible.

The Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression considers the killing of video activist Farzat Jarban a serious escalation of the repression that is committed against the citizens and the media, and emphasizes that it is the responsibility of the State to protect media workers and ensure their safety and security during the performance of their duties as stated in the Syrian Constitution and international conventions and treaties signed by the Syrian government.

The center also calls on the Syrian authorities to disclose the fate of the journalists Alaa Khoder and Mohammed Nihad Kurdiyyah and demands their immediate release or to refer them to a public court that meets the conditions of a fair trial. The center teats authorities’ holding the two journalists in isolation from the outside world a clear violation of the Syrian Constitution and the International Declaration to protect all citizens from enforced disappearance, which contradicts the obligations the Syrian government carry towards the state of human rights in Syria.

The Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression is highly concerned over the continuance enforced disappearances policy against journalists, and holds the Syrian authorities fully responsible of media workers’ personal safety and their constitutional rights, and calls to release of all detainees.