Syria

2011

Blog   |   Syria

Smashing the hand that holds the pen

Ferzat recovering at his home. (AFP)

Ali Ferzat likes to work through the night. His attackers knew that. Masked men grabbed Syria's most famous cartoonist as he set out for home from his office near Damascus' central Umayyad Square at around 5 a.m. on Thursday, and bundled him into a van. A few hours later, he lay in a bloody heap with a bag over his head on an airport road some 19 miles (30 kilometers) out of town.

Statements   |   Syria

Masked men break hands of critical Syrian cartoonist

Ferzat in a photo taken August 14, before he was brutally attacked. (AP/Muzaffar Salman)
New York, August 25, 2011--Ali Ferzat, a famous Syrian cartoonist critical of the government, was abducted and severely beaten by masked gunmen as he left his office early on Thursday in Damascus, international media reported. The attackers stomped on his hands and said the beating was a warning, the Associated Press said. He was dumped bleeding on a roadside several hours later.
August 25, 2011 1:47 PM ET

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Alerts   |   Syria

Silencing global coverage, Syria detains, expels reporters

New York, July 14, 2011--The Syrian government has detained a local journalist who contributes to pan-Arab news outlets and expelled an international reporter, according to news reports, continuing a crackdown designed to silence global news coverage of the nation's political crisis.

Blog   |   Internet, Syria

Syria's Assad gives tacit OK to online attacks on press

President al-Assad appears to have encouraged hacking attacks. (AP)

On Monday, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad gave his third public address on the vast unrest that has roiled his nation. Reporters described him as nervous. He, the reporters, or perhaps both, may have been thinking about the significance of speech No. 3. Both Tunisia's Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and Egypt's Hosni Mubarak were overthrown shortly after they delivered their third addresses on tumult in their countries. My interest, however, was on a sentence buried near the end of his address. Here's the official translation:

June 24, 2011 2:20 PM ET

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Alerts   |   Syria

Syria must prove jailed blogger is alive, well

New York, June 23, 2011--The Committee to Protect Journalists and the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information today called on the Syrian government to produce immediate evidence showing that unjustly imprisoned blogger Tal al-Mallohi is alive and well. The demand follows several recent news reports saying that al-Mallohi died in a Syrian prison a month ago. 

June 23, 2011 3:18 PM ET

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Reports   |   Cuba, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Iran, Journalist Assistance, Pakistan, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Syria

Journalists in exile 2011: Iran, Cuba drive out critics

Two of the world’s most repressive nations each forced at least 18 journalists to flee their homes in the past year. In exile, these journalists face enormous challenges. A CPJ special report by Elisabeth Witchel.

Newly freed Cuban detainees and their families in a bus after their arrival in Madrid. Exile was the price the detainees paid for their freedom. (AP/Victor R. Caivano)

Blog   |   Internet, Syria, UAE

Beyond the Amina hoax: Real cases in the Middle East

A Gay Girl in Damascus was a personal blog, said to be written by a young woman named Amina Arraf, that appeared to give an everyday record of being a lesbian in modern-day Syria. Following the events of the Arab Spring, as the political situation in Syria grew less stable, the blog attracted more readers and media coverage. Its compelling descriptions of Syrian life gave many a way to connect emotionally to a distant crisis. On June 6, the author's "cousin" wrote that the blogger had been seized by the security services.

June 15, 2011 6:07 PM ET

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Blog   |   Internet, Syria

Syrian Facebook users develop strategies against online threats

Jennifer Preston in the New York Times reports on some stories that we also have been hearing from Syrian Internet use. She documents incidents of passwords extracted by force, and the deliberate defacing of social networking pages by security forces, apparently in order to sabotage reports of unrest from that country.

A man in his 20s living in Syria said that the police demanded his Facebook password late last month after arresting him where he worked and taking his laptop. "I told him, at first, I didn't have a Facebook account, but he told me, after he punched me in the face, that he knew I had one because they were watching my 'bad comments' on it," he said. "I knew then that they were monitoring me."

The man, who asked that his name not be used because he fears that talking openly could cost him his life, gave up his password and spent two weeks in jail. After he was released, he said that he found pro-regime comments made in his name on his Facebook account. "I immediately created a new account with a fake name and so did most of my friends," he said.

A strong password is not much protection against what computer security types drily call "rubber-hose cryptanalysis" -- the use of violence to extract login details. We know that Syrian security forces also threaten users that they will violently punish anyone who changes their password after they leave.

Instead, Preston reports on new strategies developed by those on the ground. They share their passwords with colleagues, so if a Facebook user is arrested and his account misused, colleagues can log in and remove personal information or delete vandalised content. Distributors of content also create multiple Facebook accounts so that when threatened, they reveal an innocent account, instead of the one they use for dangerous activities.

Can Facebook and other US companies help their users working under these conditions? They could remind readers in that region to set their Account Security settings to force secure browsing, login notifications, and explain how to monitor account activity. And they may want to be more cautious in pro-actively taking down apparently fake accounts, in case these are being used as decoy accounts.

May 24, 2011 8:36 PM ET

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Blog   |   Iran, Syria

Parvaz says Syria detained her for Al-Jazeera work

Al-Jazeera has interviewed Dorothy Parvaz, the network journalist who was held for 19 days in Syria and Iran. Parvaz describes how the Syrian government told her at first that she was believed to be a U.S. spy, but later it became clear, she said, that she was being held because she worked for the network.  Watch the video--in which Parvaz talks about hearing "savage" beatings from her Syrian jail cell around the clock--below.

May 19, 2011 4:27 PM ET

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Statements   |   Iran, Libya, Syria

CPJ voices concern as journalists are released

New York, May 18, 2011--The release of foreign journalists held in Iran and Libya today is a very positive development in a region where the press has been under attack since social upheaval began in Tunisia early this year, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

2011

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