Reporters Without Borders is deeply saddened to have just learned that Ayham Mostafa Ghazzoul, a contributor to the Damascus-based Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM), died under torture four days after being arrested on 5 November 2012.
“We strongly condemn Ghazzoul’s murder and our thoughts go out to his family and friends as well as to his SCM colleagues who are still detained,” Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. “We call for an investigation by the international peace envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, and for the release of all prisoners of conscience currently held in Syrian jails.”
Ghazzoul was first arrested during the 16 February 2012 raid on the SCM in which all of its employees and contributors, including its director, Mazen Darwish, were arrested because of its key role in documenting the Assad regime’s atrocities and human rights abuses since the start of the uprising.
Air force intelligence held Ghazzoul for 67 days before transferring him to Adra prison, where he spent another 21 days. He was finally tried by court martial along with six other SCM contributors for “possession of illegal documents published with the aim of overthrowing the regime” and was freed after being sentenced to the equivalent of the time already spent in detention.
Dentist and student in master degree, he was arrested again on 5 November at the office on the National Union of Students on the University of Damascus campus and was again taken to air force intelligence headquarters.
Born in 1987, he was from the Damascus suburb of Deir ‘Atiyeh.
Ghazzoul’s death’s brings to 54 the number of citizen-journalists killed in Syria since the start of the uprising in March 2011.
Mazen Darwish, who was awarded the 2012 Reporters Without Borders – Le Monde – TV5MONDE Press Freedom Prize, meanwhile continues to be detained although almost a year has gone by since the raid on the SCM.
Syria is ranked 176th out of 179 countries in the 2013 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index, which was published two days ago. Of all the countries ranked in the index, Syria is the one where the most violations of freedom of information were reported in 2012.