SYRIA - 18 March 2004
Reporters Without Borders condemns sacking and death threats against journalist
Reporters Without Borders has strongly protested against the reported dismissal of journalist Younes Khalaf, of the government daily
Al-Thawra (Révolution), over an article he wrote on pollution of drinking water in north-east Al-Hassaka province.
The sacking was reported by the Arabic-language online news website http://www.elpah.com that also said the journalist had received phoned death threats.
Reporters Without Borders said the threats and harassment showed the determination of the Syrian authorities to control news. The same process was at work in preventing the Syrian and international press from effectively covering clashes in the past few days between security forces, Arab tribes and Kurdish groups that have caused a number of casualties.
Obstacles to journalists' freedom of movement and their ability to report has meant that it has not been possible to confirm how many have died, said the international press freedom organisation. In addition the Syrian authorities have blocked several Kurdish news sites that were reporting on events in the country, in particular http://www.amude.com, based in Germany.
Khalaf apparently wrote a first article in Al-Thawra exposing corruption as one of the reasons for pollution of the region's water. The article, that began with the sentence, "I smell the odour of corruption", implicated the head of the water company in Al-Hassaka.
The rest of the investigation and an open letter to Prime Minister Mohammad Naji Otri, was apparently published in the privately-owned Arabic-language newspaper The Economy.
Middle East Desk
Reporters Without Borders
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