Syria: Syria: Detained human rights defender Mazen Darwish wins UNESCO/Cano World Press Freedom Prize

03.04.15

Detained Syrian journalist and human rights defender Mazen Darwish has won the 2015 UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize. The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR), which nominated Darwish, is delighted to receive this news and reiterates its call for Darwish and other human rights defenders to immediately be freed.

“I feel great joy for this honour. It is appreciation and recognition of the efforts made silently by Mazen for years. I am pleased that a bit of joy will penetrate the darkness of the prison, and I wish that Mazen could express this in his own words,” said Yara Bader, Managing Director of SCM, who is the wife of Darwish. “We will continue to work for his freedom and the freedom of all prisoners of conscience in Syria,” she added.

Darwish, the Director of the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM) has been in jail for over three years with Hani Al-Zitani and Hussein Gharir since their arrest with other colleagues on 16 February 2012. The three men were subjected to ill treatment and torture during their enforced disappearance. In February 2013, the three defenders were taken before the Anti-Terrorism Court on charges of “publicising terrorist acts” under Article 8 of the Anti-Terrorism Law of 2012. Since then, the court has repeatedly postponed their trial, most recently on 25 March 2015. Darwish remains in prison in Hama. In February 2015, GCHR and 70 other human rights groups marked the anniversary of their arrest.

GCHR Co-Director Khalid Ibrahim said, “I think that the great sacrifices made by Mazen and his colleagues were not in vain and that this honour is a festive occasion for all those who are working tirelessly for a bright future that respects basic freedoms, including freedom of the press.”

The jury recommended Darwish “in recognition of the work he has carried out in Syria for more than ten years at great personal sacrifice, enduring a travel ban, harassment, as well as repeated detention and torture.” Darwish was also awarded the PEN Pinter International Writer of Courage Award 2014 and the Roland Berger Human Dignity Award 2011.

The UNESCO/Cano Prize, worth USD$25,000, will be awarded during the celebration of World Press Freedom Day, 3 May, being hosted by Latvia this year. See: http://www.unesco.org/new/en/communication-and-information/freedom-of-expression/press-freedom/unesco-world-press-freedom-prize/about-world-press-freedom-prize/