An independent International Jury of media professionals recommended Mazen Darwish in recognition of the work that he has carried out in Syria for more than ten years at great personal sacrifice, enduring a travel ban, harassment, as well as repeated detention and torture. Led by Ko-ko U (Myanmar), chairman of the Yangon Media Group and publisher of the Yangon Times, the International Jury stressed the need to remember Mr Darwish, currently in prison, along with so many other human rights defenders and journalists.
Salman Rushdie chose to share the prize with Mazen Darwish, saying: "Mazen Darwish courageously fought for civilised values – free expression, human rights – in one of the most dangerous places in the world. His continued detention is arbitrary and unjust. He should be freed immediately, and we must hope this award may help, by shining a light on his plight."
There is not a single prison in Syria today without one of my friends inside it, nor is there a cemetery in Syria today that doesn’t contain the remains of one of them. The fear of complicating things for them and their loved ones has etched their names onto my soul. Some people in Syria still believe that firing weapons will save them; for others, the fear of democracy is greater than the hatred of dictatorship. To those fools I say stop: You can’t kill an idea by killing people.
Mazen Darwish is a prominent Syrian human rights defender, journalist and Director of the Syrian Centre for Media and Free Expression. He has worked for many years on human rights, freedom of expression and freedom of the press in Syria, and has been detained as a result of his efforts for a free media and freedom of expression.
Mazen was arrested on 16 February 2012 by men believed to be from the intelligence arm of the Syrian Air Force. Fifteen other journalists and activists were arrested on the same day, including blogger Razan Ghazzawi and Darwish's wife, journalist Yara Badr. While Yara was released in May, Darwish was subject to forced disappearance with no official statements of his whereabouts or status.
Mazen was released from prison on 10 August 2015, although the charges were not dropped and he was scheduled to appear at a court hearing on 31 August 2015. On 31 August 2015 all charges against Mazen were dropped by an anti-terrorism court in Damascus. The court ruled that Darwish and his codefendents are covered under a political amnesty issued in 2014.