|Dorothy Parvaz arrived in Damascus via a Qatar Airways flight from Doha on Friday afternoon
Al Jazeera has demanded immediate information from Syria about one of its journalists who has been missing in the country since Friday afternoon.
Dorothy Parvaz left Doha, Qatar, for Syria on Friday to help cover events currently taking place in the country. However, there has been no contact with the 39-year-old since she disembarked from a Qatar Airways flight in Damascus.
Parvaz is an American, Canadian and Iranian citizen. She joined Al Jazeera in 2010 and recently reported on the Japanese earthquake and tsunami for the network.
She graduated from the University of British Columbia, obtained a masters from Arizona University, and held journalism fellowships at both Harvard and Cambridge. She previously worked as a columnist and feature writer for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer in the US.
An Al Jazeera spokesman said: “We are concerned for Dorothy’s safety and wellbeing. We are requesting full cooperation from the Syrian authorities to determine how she was processed at the airport and what her current location is. We want her returned to us immediately.”
When asked about Parvaz’s case, Ali Akbar Salehi, the Iranian foreign minister, said: “We demand the government of Syria look into this case.”
A wave of uprisings against authoritarian regimes across North Africa and the Middle East has prompted fears for the safety and security of reporters sent to cover civil unrest and conflicts in the region.
Media organisations, including Al Jazeera, have been restricted in Syria from reporting what activists describe as an increasingly violent crackdown by security forces on anti-government protesters.
Mohamed Abdel Dayem, Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator at the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), told Al Jazeera there was “strong evidence” to suggest Parvaz had been detained at Damascus airport.
“Obviously we are worried for the safety of Dorothy, specifically, as we are for numerous other journalists who are in government custody right now,” said Dayem.
He said up to a couple of dozen journalists had been detained in Syria since the current unrest began in mid-March with the number held fluctuating on a daily basis “between a handful and a dozen”.
Some Syrian journalists working for Syrian and regional outlets had been in custody for weeks, he said.
“Dorothy’s detention is really just the latest episode in an effort by the Syrian government to institute a media blackout,” said Dayem.
“It seems as if the government now considers the journalists as much of a problem as the actual social unrest.”
Ahead of World Press Freedom Day on May 3, the head of UNESCO said she was particularly concerned about reports that journalists in the region had been arrested, gone missing and been subjected to intimidation, threats and physical violence.
Irina Bokova, UNESCO’s director-general, “expressed deep concern over reoccurring attacks on journalists reporting on conflicts and social movements in the Middle East and Northern Africa,” the statement said.