Syria now world’s most dangerous place for journalists
Scores of journalists reporting on human rights abuses in Syria have been killed, detained, disappeared and tortured over the last two years, Amnesty International said in a report released today, World Press Freedom Day.
These abuses have been carried out by the Syrian authorities and armed opposition groups, turning Syria into the most dangerous country in the world for journalists and media workers.
The Amnesty International report, entitled Shooting the Messenger: Journalists targeted by all sides in Syria, identifies dozens of cases of journalists and media workers attacked or detained since the 2011 uprising began.
It also examines the crucial role played by citizen journalists, many of whom risk their lives to make sure information about what’s going on inside Syria gets to the outside world.
Journalists are not the only civilians under threat in Syria, but so far at least 36 have died in what are believed to be targeted attacks.
Colm O’Gorman, Executive Director of Amnesty International Ireland, said: “Deliberate attacks on civilians, including journalists, are war crimes.
“Journalists and media workers are being targeted by all sides in this conflict, although the scale of abuse by government forces remains much higher."
Independent newspapers, and radio and television stations have not been allowed to operate freely in Syria for decades.
In 2011 the Syrian authorities stepped up their repressive tactics to prevent media coverage of the then mainly peaceful uprising by introducing a virtual news blackout on mainstream media outlets between March and December.
The heavy restrictions placed on the mainstream media have led to a surge in citizen journalism, where people who are not professional journalists post information on social networking sites.
Journalists targeted include Ali Mahmoud Othman, who was arrested in Syria’s Aleppo province in March 2012 by government forces and is held at an undisclosed location.
Ali was part of a network of media workers who ran the make-shift Homs media centre providing footage and content to satellite TV channels, news outlets and foreign journalists working in Syria.
In another case, state television presenter Mohammed al-Sa’eed was reportedly abducted from his home in Damascus in July 2012 and summarily killed by Jabhat Al-Nusra, an Islamist armed opposition group.
Colm O’Gorman continued: “Journalists and media workers like Ali Mahmoud Othman, who are detained simply for reporting on human rights abuses, should be immediately released.
“For two years the international community has done nothing to ensure those responsible for atrocities in Syria are brought to justice.
“How much more evidence of war crimes and crimes against humanity does the UN Security Council need to see before it refers the situation in Syria to the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court?”