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

Obama: I Will Do 'Everything I Can' to Close Guantanamo

US president says prison continues 'to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world' More

Sierra Leone Educates on Safe Ebola Burials

Also, country is improving at rapid response to isolated outbreaks, but health workers need to be even faster, officials say More

Religion Aside, Christmas Gains Popularity in Communist Vietnam

Increasingly wealthy Vietnamese embrace holiday due to its non-religious glamor, commercial appeal 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.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid