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"My husband jailed for defending press freedom"

Yara Bader's appeal for the release of Mazen Darwish

Jailed journalist Mazen Darwish

Jailed journalist Mazen Darwish US Center for International Religious Freedom

Syrian journalist Yara Bader, co-director together with  her husband of the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression, wrote a letter to British paper The Guardian to demand his release after over one year in prison. 

"In a country where everything is forbidden except for applause, everything is bound to security, which is in the hands of very few people, and none of the fighting groups recognizes freedom of expression, my husband is detained in inhumane conditions because he speaks a language that few in Syria understand, a language in which the words human rights, ethics of journalism and freedom of expression still retain their value".

According to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, Mazen Darwish was first illegali kidnapped for nine months, during which he was severely tortured, and then deferred to the central prison of the city of Hama.

For the Syrian authorities his center violated article 8 of Anti-terrorism act, "destabilizing the domestic situation to ensure  that the international organizations would condemn Syria in all forums.

Actually, he had simply criticized a law of 8 March 1963 forbidding all kinds of gathering, political opinions different from the regime's and independent journalism: "One day will come in which no group, government or regime will hold the monopoly of the truth or hide it as a whole or in part, even in times of iron walls, one-sided ideologies and closed societies".

According to his wife, Mazen Darwish drew inspiration directly from journalists like  Edward R. Murrow, the US reporter who exposed the repressive plots of Senator McCarthy, and the editors of Charlie Hebdo, whom everybody is mourning today. Furthermore, he shared the need for profound humanity expressed by Chaplin in the world-famous monologue at the end of The Great Dictator.

Yara Bader concluded by writing: "With our words, we will resist this reality as prisoners of time, because when we defend people like these, we defend humanity, an ideal that will never perish".

Mazen Darwish won the prize Writer of Courage of International PEN Club in 2014. He was remembered by Rana Zaitouneh as she came to Italy to participate in the European Day of the Righteous and together with Gariwo she demanded the liberation of her sister Razan

26 March 2015

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Freedom of expression

against blinkered thinking

Freedom of thought is usually the first of the fundamental rights of the human being to be targeted by authoritarian regimes, and this applies increasingly the closer it gets to the prototype of totalitarian society. Censorship muzzles the press and journalists are prevented from doing their job, 'till the point in which they are reduced to a mere mouthpiece of the state propaganda. Also the other free expressions of thought are under attack, no one is spared: intellectuals, writers, film directors... even figurative arts are under strict control. Repression heavily curbs all forms of individual sovereignty, such as above all opinions, personal ideas, which represent the worst threat for those who want to impose the "blinkered thought".
In fascist Italy, Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia, in maoist China and in the dictatorships of Latin America like in modern theocracies and new autocratic regimes, troublesome books were banned and even burnt on the squares, and the historian, scientists, scholars, artists who refused to line up were exiled or jailed.
Totalitarianism entered homes and imposed its grip within the family, which was dominated by the fear of being betrayed even by one's dearest ones. A mechanism of self-censorship thus started: in order to survive people preferred giving up not only expressing their views.. but even to conceive them. There was nothing left but settle for the doctrine expressed by the leaders on power.
Those who try to resist, to keep their own individual character and personal freedom, lose everything, but their independence, combined with the resistance of many other in the same conditions, undermines the very foundations of dictatorial regimes, until their collapse.

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Massoud Benhoud

a journalist persecuted for his defence of freedom of information