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

Multimedia Brussels Schools, Metro Reopen Under Heavy Guard

City remains under the highest threat alert level due to what authorities have described as a 'serious and imminent' threat of attack

Video Debt-ridden Refugees Await Onslaught of Lebanese Winter

Aid agencies are attempting to reduce potentially devastating consequences of freezing conditions and snowstorms that killed eight last year, including three Syrian refugees

UN Warns Air Pollution in Asia Pacific Has Rising Cost

Globally some seven million people a year die prematurely due to indoor and outdoor pollution with about 70 per cent of those deaths in region

This forum has been closed.
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.
After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against ISi
November 24, 2015 3:04 AM
The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs