A BELATED word of congratulations to Mazen Darwish, head of the Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM), and the Afghan daily 8Sobh, who were jointly awarded the 2012 Press Freedom Prize by Reporters sans frontières, Le Monde and TV5Monde.
Although there were many outstanding nominees, the awards jury paid tribute to Darwish, who “displayed extraordinary courage” in the face of danger and paid with his freedom.
RSF continues to demand his release by Syrian authorities.
|Mazen Darwish ... held incommunicado|
by Syrian authorities. Photo: AI
At the time of his arrest, he was a key source of information when most foreign journalists were barred.
He has also reported to have been badly tortured and his health is suffering because of lack of treatment for a medical condition.
Syrian officials have refused to disclose his whereabouts or bring him before a judge.
Winner of the media freedom category, Afghanistan's 8Sobh (8 am), was described by the award jury as “living evidence that freely reported quality journalism can develop in the most difficult corners of the planet”.
Noting the horrendous global journalist death toll during 2012 - reported by RSF as 88 , The Guardian’s Roy Greenslade wrote on his blog:
At least 17 journalists, 44 citizen journalists and four media assistants killed in 2012 during the conflict between Bashar Al-Assad's government and various rebel groups.
Syria has hit news providers hard because they are the unwanted witnesses of atrocities being committed by the regime and armed opposition groups.
Due to the polarisation of information sources, news manipulation, propaganda, technical constraints and the extreme violence to which journalists and citizen journalists are exposed, anyone trying to gather or disseminate news and information in Syria needs a real sense of vocation.Of growing concern is the number of Al Qaeda factions reportedly involved in the rebel forces (as happened in the Libyan version of the so-called “Arab Spring”). This is exposed in the above video.
In an attack on a Sahara desert gas plant by Al Qaeda and the killing of hostages in a shoot-out with Algerian troops on January 16, it was reported: "Western and African allies who fear that al Qaeda, flush with men and arms from the defeated forces of Libya's Muammar Gaddafi, is building a desert haven in Mali, a poor country helpless to combat fighters who seized its northern oasis towns last year."