Syria urged to release journalist Dorothy Parvaz

Syria remains in turmoil as the Assad government responds with violence and repression to the ongoing anti-government protests. And the government doesn't like free reporting on events. For years it has had tight restrictions on the foreign and domestic press. And that has become tighter.

The Syrian government has confirmed that it is holding Al Jazeera English journalist Dorothy Parvaz, who holds American, Canadian and Iranian passports.

Parvaz, 39, a reporter for Al Jazeera’s English-language channel, has not been heard from since she landed in Damascus on a Qatar Airways flight from Doha, Al-Jazeera reported.

“We are concerned for Dorothy’s safety and well-being," said an Al Jazeera spokesman. "We are requesting full cooperation from the Syrian authorities to determine how she was processed at the airport and what her current location is. We want her returned to us immediately.”

The American, Canadian and Iranian embassies in Damascus have all sought information from the Syrian government, according to Todd Barker, Parvaz’s fiance. Parvaz did not have the time to get a Syrian visa and was probably traveling on her Iranian passport, he added.

The International Press Institute has urged the Syrian government to release Parvaz. IPI Press Freedom Manager Anthony Mills said: “We urge the Syrian authorities to be more transparent about the whereabouts of Dorothy Parvaz, and the circumstances of her detention. If she is being held because of her work as a journalist she should be released immediately.”

The Committee to Protect Journalists, Reporters Without Borders, the Seattle Times and the Boston Globe have all called on the Syrian government to release Parvaz.

There is also a Facebook campaign for Parvaz and on Twitter at #FreeDorothy.

Parvaz’s disappearance is the latest in a series of attacks on journalists as protests continue against President Bashar al-Assad. Two Reuters reporters, Suleiman Al-Khalidi and Khaled al-Hariri, temporarily went missing when the protests started, before being freed, while the accreditation of another journalist was withdrawn by the government for “unprofessional and false” coverage of events.

Parvaz is a friend and colleague. A mutual friend, journalist Tommy Tomlinson, has written a column about Parvaz for the Charlotte Observer.