DUBAI (Reuters) – Qatar-based satellite channel Al Jazeera said it had suspended some operations in Syria, in a move a media watchdog said was the result of restrictions and attacks on its staff.
A spokesman for the network told Reuters the suspended operations were from the channel’s Arabic language service.
The U.S.-based Committee to Protect Journalists said the network had told it Damascus had subjected Syrian employees to sustained pressure to resign from the news channel.
Authorities also prevented the channel’s correspondents entering the city of Deraa, where a Syrian uprising demanding political freedoms began in mid-March, CPJ said in a statement.
Al Jazeera, the leading Arabic language network, played a key role reporting Arab uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, which toppled Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali and Hosni Mubarak.
CPJ said Syrian authorities had also told Al Jazeera’s Syria-based staff “not to communicate with the station’s headquarters in Doha, and not to appear on air to present the news from the bureau, even if by telephone,” the statement said.
It said that in the past three days, unknown assailants had pelted Al Jazeera’s Damascus bureau with eggs and stones, and men in civilian clothes had continued to harass and intimidate the bureau and its employees since then.
“Syria believes that by harassing, expelling, and arresting journalists it can prevent the world from seeing the civil unrest gripping the country,” CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Mohamed Abdel Dayem said.
“This strategy has already failed in Egypt, Tunisia, and Yemen. The government in Damascus must immediately stop harassing and threatening all journalists and allow them to work freely.”