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Syria detains blogger, press freedom advocate

Syrian journalist Razan Ghazzawi speaks at a youth conference on journalism earlier this year. The blogger was detained by police late Sunday. (Reuters)

New York, December 5, 2011--The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the detention of journalist and press freedom campaigner Razan Ghazzawi and calls on Syrian authorities to immediately release her. CPJ also urges the government to end the routine harassment and detention of journalists and to make public the names of all detained journalists and any crimes they may be charged with.

Ghazzawi, who also works for the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM), was en route to a conference on press freedom in Amman when Syrian border police detained her at the border late on Sunday, according to news reports. The U.S.-born Ghazzawi, 30, devoted much of her online writings to documenting the detention of bloggers and writers in Syria during the 10-month uprising.

"Having for months engaged in routine incarceration and abuse of journalists, Syrian authorities have now detained Razan Ghazzawi in a flagrant attempt to silence the criticism of that very same practice," said Mohamed Abdel Dayem, CPJ's Middle East and North Africa program coordinator. "The government's assertions of imminent media reforms amount to nothing as long as it continues to use detentions as a crude means of censorship."

In August, Syria approved a new media law that purportedly bans the arrest of journalists and defends freedom of expression. At the time, CPJ noted that the new law, lacking any meaningful enforcement mechanisms, amounted to little more than platitudes about media pluralism--a public relations stunt. Since March, CPJ has reported on the detention of numerous journalists. Many were held without authorities disclosing their charges, whereabouts, or condition. After being held under duress for extended periods, many were released without charge. CPJ continues to investigate several of these cases. 

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