Middle East News
Protests in Syria's Daraa city, journalists banned
Mar 25, 2011, 12:34 GMT
Damascus/Cairo - Hundreds of Syrians gathered for mass protests Friday in the southern city of Daraa as the authorities banned journalists from entering the area that has been the focal point of the demonstrations, activists said.
The authorities stopped journalists on the outskirts of Daraa, saying they did not have permission from the Information Ministry, according to activists. Most of reporters were from Arab satellite channels that have permanent offices in the capital, Damascus.
'People are on the streets of Daraa ready to participate in the Day of Dignity protest but the army is sealing off the city,' an activist in Daraa told the German Press Agency dpa.
'They do not want us to speak to the media and tell them about the massacres of the regime,' said the activist, who requested anonymity.
State TV reported Friday that life had returned to normal in Daraa. Dozens of anti-government protesters have been killed in the city after security forces reportedly opened fire on them, but there was no confirmation of the exact number of casualties.
In his Friday sermon, influential cleric Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi urged Arabs to support Syria's protesters. 'Today the train of revolution has reached a station that it had to reach: The Syria station,' he said.
'It is not possible for Syria to be separated from the history of the Arab community,' he said.
Meanwhile, government supporters drove around Damascus praising Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and chanting, 'This is Syria's Assad.'
Security forces tried to disperse an estimated 200 anti-government protestors in the Mezzeh neighbourhood of Damascus, Lebanese media reported citing witnessed. Dozens were reportedly arrested in the city's Al-Marja Square.
Friday's Day of Dignity comes after promises by Assad to 'study' the possibility of ending Syria's emergency rule, which has been in force since 1963.
He also issued a decree increasing salaries for all public sector employees and reducing taxes.
But the government pledges were not sufficient because 'there are people who went missing and we want to know their fate,' said another activist in Daraa.
For more than a week, Syrian protesters have been demanding an end to emergency law, greater freedoms, and - in some cases - Assad's ouster.
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