[ Saalouk #3: Mazen Darwish ] 'All I want is to publish it'



 
When confronted with the choice to lie - and be rewarded -, or to tell the truth - and go to jail -, Syrian journalist Mazen Darwish chose the latter. For this, MENASSAT decided to make him our 'Saalouk #3.'
 
Mazen Darwish
Mazen Darwish. R.R.

Editor's Note: During the 'Jahiliah,' the days of ignorance before the coming of the Prophet, the poets were the media. While some sang the praises of whoever was in power, others refused to sell out and vowed only to tell the truth. They were the 'saalik' or 'tramps.' In this new section, MENASSAT.COM profiles people who we consider to be the modern-day 'saalik.' Our 'Saalouk #3' is Syrian journalist/activist Mazen Darwish.

Click here to go to the interview.

DAMASCUS/BEIRUT, Feb. 1, 2008 (MENASSAT.COM) – After he was arrested, his main concern was to retrieve his laptop from the Syrian military general prosecution. "I only want it for five minutes. I wrote a report about 121 websites being banned. All I want it to publish it."

This is Mazen Darwish, a Syrian journalist who – despite all the violations against the freedom of press and expression in Syria – still believes that the wheels of destiny will ultimately carry us towards a brighter future..

Darwish, who got his law degree for Damascus University, is president of the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression, the only organization in Syria concerned with the defense of journalists. He is also a fierce activist for human rights, and a member of Reporters Without Borders as well as of the International Federation for Journalists.

Given all that, we were a bit surprised to hear that Darwish had not signed the Damascus Declaration for change, for which so many activists were jailed earlier this month. But, as Darwish said, "I am a journalist and a person who is very much involved in the civil society. But I’m also neutral, for my job as a journalist forces me to stay away from political parties. I serve the truth better if I’m not politicized."

This did not prevent him from going to jail, earlier this month, after he had gone to the town of Adra to investigate rumors of rioting there.

"I visited the area to interview people and to take pictures of houses that were vandalized. In fact, I was able to observe many violations that occurred, including on the  part of the police. So the authorities tried to talk me out of publishing my information through a mix of threats and promises." Darwish refused, and was subsequently arrested. He was released two days later, but the case is not yet closed.

In an interview with MENASSAT, Darwish opens the painful file of the Syrian reality, talking about harsh laws, banned websites and a publication law, "which reads as if it was written from a police station", but also about his hope for the next generation of journalists.

His own electronic newspaper, "Al-Mashhad al-Suri" (The Syrian Reality), was banned in the second half of 2006. But there are ambitious plans to revive it.

"We are currently working on the re-launching of the newspaper and transforming it into an electronic newspaper and radio station, with the collaboration of Ammannet, the first e-station in the Middle East. Our project will see the light in few months."

Click here to go to the interview.



[ Saalouk #2: Tom Young ] A modern-day David Roberts
Posted on 01/25/2008 - 12:48
The paintings of David Roberts, depicting an idyllic 19th-century Levant, are ubiquitous in many households in the region. Now, another romantic British painter, Tom Young, follows in Roberts' footsteps but with a difference. In Young's 21st-century Levant, not all is idyllic, as the artist takes his sketchbook to places like bombed-out South Beirut. TomYoung.jpg 
[ Saalouk #1: Ghaith Abdul-Ahad ] 'You don't get extra credit for being an Iraqi'
Posted on 01/04/2008 - 13:05
During the 'Jahiliah,' the days of ignorance, the poets were the media. While some sang the praises of whoever was in power, others refused to sell out and vowed only to tell the truth. They were the 'saalik' or 'tramps.' In this new section, MENASSAT.COM profiles Arab journalists who we consider to be the modern-day 'saalik.' Our 'Saalouk #1' is Iraqi writer/photographer Ghaith Abdul-Ahad.