Activists protest reporters held in Syria

French group defaces Syrian embassy in Paris to protest crackdown on journalists on World Press Freedom Day.

     Protesters outside the Syrian embassy in Paris carried banners reading: "It is ink that should flow, not blood" [AFP]

    French activists have thrown blue paint onto the walls of the Syrian embassy in Paris as part of a protest against the detention of journalists in the Middle Eastern country.

    Around 30 demonstrators from Reporters Without Borders (RSF) gathered outside the building in the French capital on Tuesday to mark UNESCO World Press Freedom Day by calling for an end to the crackdown on the media.

    They held banners reading "It is ink that should flow, not blood", and also painted the words on the wall of the building. According to RSF, the demonstrators were later arrested by police.

    "Syria is the country that worries us most at the moment," Jean-Francois Julliard, the group's secretary-general, said.

    "No one knows what is going on there. How many of the demonstrators have been killed? How many have been wounded? No one knows because journalists are being prevented from working. Foreign reporters cannot get visas to go there and local journalists are all being jailed or forced to remain silent."

    Reporters Without Borders has expressed concern about journalists being held in Syria, including Fayez Sara, a Syrian journalist and writer who was arrested on 11 April; Mohamed Zaid Mistou, a Norwegian journalist arrested on 7 April; and Kamal Sheikhou, a Syrian blogger who was arrested in March.

    The organisation has identified 38 nations that "prey on the media", including Libya, Syria, Yemen and Bahrain, where uprisings against governments are taking place.

    The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has also marked Tuesday by calling for freedom of expression to be protected worldwide.

    Irina Bokova, the director-general, said she was concerned about reports of journalists covering anti-government protests in countries such as Syria going missing or being subjected to threats and physical violence.

    "Silencing the media or attempting to intimidate them is an unacceptable assault on the right of citizens to be informed," she said.

    "I call on all countries in the world to respect the right to free expression, as laid down in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the right to freedom of information."

    Al Jazeera has marked World Press Freedom Day by highlighting many of the challenges faced by its journalists and by colleagues from other media institutions.

    The network has been under a great deal of pressure during the revolutions occurring in the Arab world

    Ali Hassan Al Jaber, an Al Jazeera cameraman, was killed in an ambush that targeted the network’s crew in the Al-Hawwari district, south of Benghazi on March 13. Another Al Jazeera journalist who was with Ali, Nasser Al-Haddar, was wounded and hospitalized in the attack.

    A total of nine Al Jazeera journalists were arrested while reporting in Egypt between January and February. 

    One of its journalists, Kamel Al-Tallou, is currently being held in Libya while another, Dorothy Parvaz, has been missing in Syria since Friday afternoon.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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