“The United States strongly condemns the arrests by the Syrian government of a number of bloggers, including Ahmad Aboul-Kheir and Kamal Hussein Sheikho in addition to recently Tal Al-Mallouhi,” State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said.
Ahmad Hadifa, a journalism student known as Ahmad Aboul-Kheir, was arrested February 19. His blog explained how to circumvent authorities’ attempts to block access to websites, and carried articles about the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt.
Kamal Cheikho, a Kurdish militant and blogger detained since last June, has gone on a hunger strike, the Syrian Human Rights Observatory said Sunday.
Tal Al-Mallouhi, 19, was sentenced last week to five years in prison. She was accused of working for the CIA, an accusation that Crowley rejected as “preposterous.”
“The Syrian government’s decision to arrest bloggers is contradictory to recent steps taken by the Syrian government to open social media sites to its citizens,” Crowley said.
Syria was 173rd of 178 countries in a 2010 ranking of press freedom around the world by Reporters Without Borders, eight rungs lower than in 2009 because of its stepped up controls over the Internet.