On 26 February 2015, the International Press Institute (IPI) named as its 67th World Press Freedom Hero prominent Syrian lawyer, journalist and human rights defender Mazen Darwish, who has been detained for 3 years on the basis of his human rights activities.
IPI’s World Press Freedom Hero Award honours journalists who have made significant contributions to the promotion of press freedom, particularly in the face of great personal risk.
Mazen Darwish is the President of the Damascus-based Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM), which he founded in 2004 and which works to promote freedom of opinion and expression.
He was arrested on 16 February 2012, when plain clothes Air Force Intelligence agents raided SCM’s office in Damascus and arrested all present staff members. He was detained for approximately one year in security branches in conditions amounting to enforced disappearance, where he was subjected to ill treatment and torture.
In February 2013, he was taken before the Anti-Terrorism Court on charges of “publicizing terrorist acts” under Article 8 of the Anti-Terrorism Law of 2012. Since then, the court has repeatedly postponed his trial, most recently in January 2015. A new trial date has not yet been set. On 31 January 2015, he was transferred to the central prison in Hama.
Darwish echoed this award in a message from Hama central prison where he was transferred, with no explanation, on 31 January 2015 :
“I was honoured and moved to hear about the award. I thank all those who participated in bestowing this honour to me and I feel that this citation belongs to all those journalists in the Arab world who have worked hard and sacrificed to make journalism a more professional and more independent profession.”