CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – The Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard is calling for information and assistance in obtaining the release of journalist Dorothy Parvaz, a 2009 Nieman Fellow, who is being held in Syria.
Parvaz, who works for Al Jazeera, hasn’t been heard from since she landed in Damascus on assignment on Friday, April 29. Syrian officials have informed the news organization that they are holding her.
Nieman Foundation curator Bob Giles said, “The Nieman family is deeply concerned about the safety of our colleague, Dorothy Parvaz. The foundation has joined with many others in the quest for her release from detention by Syrian officials. We welcome any information we can share in the hope that it will be helpful to resolving the situation quickly.”
Giles added that he is troubled about the growing number of attacks on journalists working worldwide, whether through actual physical assaults or governmental interference and threats. “It’s crucial that we protect and preserve our journalists’ autonomy and ability to report freely,” he said.
Parvaz, an American, Canadian and Iranian citizen, joined Al Jazeera in 2010. A spokesman for the news organization said, “We are worried about Dorothy’s welfare, security and safety. Syria should release her immediately.”
The Nieman Foundation has posted information about Parvaz’s disappearance on its websites and is in touch with Nieman Fellows and other journalists in the Middle East as part of a growing effort to reach authorities who might intercede with the Syrian government, as well as to obtain information on what has happened to Parvaz.
A Facebook page — www.facebook.com/FreeDorothy — has been created to track news of Parvaz and updates are being posted on Twitter @ #FreeDorothy.
Kristen Young, a colleague who worked with Parvaz at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, said she obtained this quote from J. J. Harder, the press attaché at the U.S. Embassy in Damascus: “Ambassador (Robert) Ford met with a senior Syrian official about the issue of Ms. Dorothy Parvaz and he asked for more information and consular access.”
Hannah Allam, Parvaz’s Nieman classmate and Middle East bureau chief for McClatchy Newspapers, says “Al Jazeera really goes to bat for its journalists, so I’m sure the channel is doing all it can … Perhaps just posting the news story about her disappearance and spreading awareness is good at this point.”
The Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard administers the oldest midcareer fellowship program for journalists in the world. Grants are awarded to accomplished professionals who come to Harvard for a year of study, seminars and other special events. More than 1,300 journalists from 90 countries have received Nieman Fellowships. The foundation’s other initiatives include Nieman Reports, an influential quarterly magazine and website that explores journalism’s contemporary challenges and opportunities; Nieman Watchdog, a project that encourages journalists to monitor and hold accountable all those who exert power in public life; Nieman Journalism Lab, a collaborative effort by journalists and media commentators to identify emerging business models and best practices in journalism in the digital age; and Nieman Storyboard, a website that showcases exceptional narrative journalism in every medium and explores the future of nonfiction storytelling.