Rights Groups: Syria
Escalating Violent Campaign Against Journalists
February 23, 2012
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
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
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
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.
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
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