News / Middle East

Rights Groups: Syria Escalating Violent Campaign Against Journalists

Undated  photo of French photographer Remi Ochlik who died Wednesday Feb. 22, 2012  in Homs, Syria and American journalist Marie Colvin working for a British newspaper, who were killed Wednesday by Syrian government shelling of the opposition stronghold o
Undated photo of French photographer Remi Ochlik who died Wednesday Feb. 22, 2012 in Homs, Syria and American journalist Marie Colvin working for a British newspaper, who were killed Wednesday by Syrian government shelling of the opposition stronghold o

Media rights groups say the killing of two Western journalists in the Syrian city of Homs on Wednesday shows Damascus is escalating a violent campaign against independent news coverage of its crackdown on dissent.

Veteran American Sunday Times correspondent Marie Colvin and French freelance photographer Remi Ochlik are the latest journalists to be killed in an 11-month uprising that has become increasingly dangerous for the profession to cover.

Colvin and Ochlik were among group of journalists who sneaked into Syria this month by crossing the Lebanese border with the help of smugglers. The Syrian government does not permit foreign reporters to travel freely and has kept most of them out.

The two journalists were staying at a makeshift media center in the rebel-held Homs district of Baba Amr when several rockets hit the building Wednesday morning, killing them and wounding three other reporters. Activists say Syrian government troops surrounding Homs have been indiscriminately bombarding the residential area every day since February 4.

Reporters Without Borders spokeswoman Soazid Dollet told VOA the Paris-based organization is investigating allegations by some activists that forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad deliberately targeted the Baba Amr media center. The group accused Syria of using "the most violent means" to "silence journalists who witness (government) excesses" and to enforce a "bloody" policy of censorship.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists said Colvin and Ochlik were killed reporting on a story the Syrian government has tried to "choke off." It said their deaths represent an "unacceptable escalation in the price that local and international journalists are being forced to pay."

The Syrian Information Ministry said Wednesday the government did not know that Colvin and Ochlik were in the country. It called on all foreign journalists who have entered Syria illegally to report to immigration officials to resolve their status.

Wednesday's attack on the Baba Amr media center wounded three other journalists: French reporter Edith Bouvier, who writes for French newspaper Le Figaro, Colvin's British photographer Paul Conroy, and Paris-based photographer William Daniels.

Amateur video posted on YouTube showed Bouvier and Conroy alert and lying on beds in a makeshift medical clinic, with their legs bandaged from apparent shrapnel wounds. A doctor in the video said Bouvier was in a serious condition and needed emergency medical care.

Dollet of Reporters Without Borders said Colvin's death is a "great loss" for the industry. Colvin, who was in her mid-to-late 50s, was born in New York state. She earned a reputation as a courageous reporter covering some of world's deadliest conflicts for London's Sunday Times, where she had worked for the past two decades.

Colvin was recognizable for wearing an eye patch that concealed an injury she suffered in an explosion while covering Sri Lanka's civil war in 2001.

She acknowledged the risks of her work in a 2010 speech in which she paid tribute to other slain journalists. Speaking at London's St. Bride's Church, she said: "We always have to ask ourselves whether the level of risk is worth the story. What is bravery, and what is bravado? Journalists covering combat shoulder great responsibilities and face difficult choices. Sometimes they pay the ultimate price."

In her final report published on Sunday, she wrote of Homs: "It is a city of the cold and hungry, echoing to exploding shells and bursts of gunfire. On the lips of everyone was the question: 'Why have we been abandoned by the world?'" A day before her death, Colvin spoke to BBC television by telephone and described a two-year-old boy dying of a shrapnel wound: "I watched a little baby die today. Absolutely horrific."

Twenty-eight-year-old Ochlik was born in France. He began his photography career covering riots in Haiti in 2004 and founded photographic agency IP3 Press in 2005. He rose to prominence last year for covering Arab Spring revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. His 12-image series titled "Battle for Libya" won him the first prize at this year's World Press Photo contest.

Six other journalists have been killed in Syria since the start of the anti-Assad revolt, one of them a foreigner. French reporter Gilles Jacquier was hit by hostile fire in Homs last month while on assignment for France 2 television.

Media rights groups say the fatalities also include three Syrians who filmed government attacks on Homs and shared the footage with the world: cousins Rami and Basil al-Sayed and Mazhar Tayyara. Dollet called on Syria to stop "deliberately targeting" such "citizen journalists."

A ninth journalist, American New York Times Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Anthony Shadid, died in Syria from an apparent asthma attack on February 16, after he slipped into the country.

Dollet said Reporters Without Borders believes journalists should stay in Syria to document the conflict, provided they take precautions for their security.

-------------------------

Journalist Fatalities in Syria since Start of Anti-Assad Uprising

* Marie Colvin, American Sunday Times correspondent. Killed on February 22, 2012 in Homs.

* Remi Ochlik, French freelance photographer. Killed on February 22, 2012 in Homs.

* Rami al-Sayed, Syrian citizen journalist. Killed on February 21, 2012 in Homs. Cousin of Basil al-Sayed.

* Anthony Shadid, American New York Times reporter. Died on February 16, 2012 from an asthma attack at an undetermined location in Syria.

* Mazhar Tayyara, Syrian citizen journalist. Killed on February 4, 2012 in Homs.

* Gilles Jacquier, French journalist with France 2 television. Killed on January 11, 2012 in Homs.

* Shukri Abu al-Burghul, editor/reporter for state-owned newspaper Al-Thawra and state-owned Radio Damascus. Killed on January 3, 2012 in Damascus.

* Basil al-Sayed, Syrian citizen journalist. Killed on December 27, 2011 in Homs.

* Ferzat Jarban, freelance cameraman. Killed on November 19 or 20, 2011 in Al-Qasir.


Michael Lipin

Michael covers international news for VOA on the web, radio and TV, specializing in the Middle East and East Asia Pacific. Follow him on Twitter @Michael_Lipin

You May Like

IS Militants Release 49 Turkish Hostages

Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency reports that no ransom was paid and no conditions accepted for the hostages' release; few details of the release are known More

Photogallery IS Attacks Send Thousands of Syrian Kurds Fleeing to Turkey

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says more than 300 Kurdish fighters crossed into Syria from Turkey to defend a Kurdish area from attack by the Islamic militants More

Video Sierra Leone's Ebola Lockdown Continues

Thousands of health workers are going door to door in the West African country of 6 million, informing people of how to avoid Ebola, handing out soap More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’i
X
Jeff Seldin
September 20, 2014 10:28 PM
Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid