Monday, June 30, 2008

Syria - cyber-dissidents

Syria - Syria sets Arab world record with at least five bloggers and cyber-dissidents detained

Reporters Without Borders is worried by the lack of news about Hammam Haddad, a Damascus University student and author of magazine and Internet articles, since his arrest on 5 May in the capital without any reason being given. He is the fifth Internet user to be detained in Syria in the past year.

"This arrest turns Syria into the Arab world's most repressive country towards people who post news and information online," the press freedom organisation said. "It is an additional attempt to intimidate and silence dissidents and bloggers."

Activist Mohammad Badi Dak Al Bab, a member of the National Organisation for Human Rights in Syria was meanwhile sentenced to six months in prison yesterday on a charge of "attacking the prestige of the state" under article 287 of the criminal code for posting an article entitled "Damascus, capital of Arab culture"on the organisation's website. Bab, who has been held in Adra (20 km northeast of the capital) since 2 March, was previously detained from 2000 to 2005.

A blogger, Tariq Biassi, 22, is being held in a Damascus security camp. He was sentenced on 11 May to three years in prison under articles 285 and 286 of the criminal code for "publishing false information" and "undermining national sentiment" for posting a comment critical of the government on a website.

He was one of the first people to fall victim to new government provisions regarding the Internet. Telecommunications minister Amr Salem, decreed on 25 July 2007 that website owners should, for security reasons, keep the personal data of those posting articles and comments online.

Reporters Without Borders calls for the release of Biassi, Haddad and three other cyber-dissidents - Firas Saad, Habib Saleh and Kareem Arabji - and points out the Syrian constitution "guarantees the right to freely express one's opinions in word, in writing or by any other means."

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