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Syria Imposes No-Film Zone

Syria is imposing difficulties on press coverage of disturbances. Missing reporters freed.
By Aryeh Ben Hayim
First Publish: 3/29/2011, 2:35 PM / Last Update: 3/29/2011, 3:14 PM

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Syria has released two Lebanese reporters working for Reuters, Ayat Basma and Ezzat Baltaji, who had been missing since last Saturday when they were driving back to Lebanon following coverage of anti-regime protests in Syria. The authorities justified their brief detention on the grounds that they lacked work permits and were working in a no film zone.

Another Reuters correspondent in Damascus, Khaled Yacoub Oweis, a Jordanian national, had his accreditation lifted after he was accused of filing “unprofessional and false” reports about the disturbances. Oweis is a relatively veteran correspondent in Damascus who has been working for Reuters in the Syrian capital since February 2006.

As part of the news blackout imposed by the authorities, Daraa, the center of the demonstrations, has been closed to journalists. Security forces have escorted journalists back to Damascus, claiming that this was being done for their own safety. Less fortunate are Syrian nationals including the Kurdish blogger Kamal Hussein Sheikhou, the blogger Ahmed Hadifa and journalist/writer Mohamed Dibo. They are still in custody.

Also in custody but awaiting a better fate is 21-year-old Pathik "Tik" Root missing since March 18 . His father Tom Root said that his son, who was studying Arabic in Damascus, was arrested during a demonstration in Damascus at which he was a spectator. According to Root, Vermont's senior senator, Pat Leahy, and the Syrian Ambassador to Washington, Imad Moustapha, were working "to bring this complex situation to a resolution".