Mais Katt | Mazen Darwish, a prominent defender of press freedom in Syria, is to appear before the Terrorism Court today with his colleagues Hani Zitani and Hussein Ghrer. Zitani and Ghrer are members of the Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression founded by Darwish in 2004.
The Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression SCM used to monitor violations of press freedom in the country, and to publish annual reports about media in Syria. The Centre published reports on the travel ban as a tool of persecution in Syria, and the Syrian authorities' censorship and monitoring of the Internet. It is worth mentioning that Darwish had tried to register the centre officially, but the Syrian authorities denied his request.
Darwish has received numerous international awards in recognition of his activism in defence of press freedom including: Roland Berger Human Dignity Award before his arrest in 2011, Reporters Without Borders Prize for Press Freedom and the Bruno Kreisky Award after his arrest in 2012. At the beginning of Syrian Uprising, Darwish spoke to the media documenting the Syrian regime’s violations of human rights and its systematic targeting and abuse of protesters, at that time talking to the media was a very serious and dangerous challenge. His first arrest came at the very early days of the uprising along with a number of the protesters in front of the Interior Ministry in Damascus. Later on February 16, 2012 the Air Force Intelligence raided the headquarters of the centre and arrested fifteen activists including Darwish, the centre’s director. Since then, Darwish was transferred from the air Force Intelligence branch to the Fourth Division, and then finally to Adra prison where he remains detained to this day. Darwish, and his SCM colleagues are scheduled to appear before the Terrorism Court today.