Syrian Government Leaves Journalists Trapped with Residents in Homs

by Reporters Without Borders    /  February 29, 2012  / No comments

After over a year of demonstrations, and despite the country's new constitution, which went into effect on February 27, the situation in Syria remains tenuous.

Reporters Without Borders condemns the Syrian government’s “obstinate refusal” to allow the evacuation of French journalists Edith Bouvier and William Daniels, and British journalist Paul Conroy, from Homs, along with the bodies of Marie Colvin and Remy Ochlik, two foreign journalists who were killed there on February 22.

The press freedom organization is very concerned about Bouvier and Conroy, who both sustained leg injuries in the same bombardment of the Bab Amr media centre in Homs that killed Colvin and Ochlik. Reporters Without Borders urges the authorities to observe a ceasefire and allow their evacuation and the provision of humanitarian assistance to the entire population.

Reporters Without Borders also calls on China and Russia, the two countries that vetoed a UN Security Council resolution condemning Syria on February 4, to assume their responsibility and to get the Syrian government to end the violence against the population and allow the evacuation of the journalists trapped in the besieged city.

China and Russia share much of the blame for the dramatic deterioration in the humanitarian situation and the exacerbation of the violence in Syria, having blocked what could have been an international initiative to resolve the conflict. After being besieged for weeks and subject to constant bombardment, the population of Homs is now badly short of water, food and medicine.

Neither China nor Russia attended the “Friends of Syria” conference that was held in Tunis on February 24. The purpose of the conference was to define a humanitarian aid plan for the Syrian people. Reporters Without Borders signed a joint appeal to the conference’s participants urging them to “to develop an international strategy for ending the human rights violations in Syria.”

Various reports seem to indicate that the Syrian armed forces deliberately targeted the Bab Amr media centre and foreign journalists on February 22 (read the Daily Telegraph and Libération stories).

On February 23, a UN independent commission of enquiry headed by Paulo Pinheiro submitted a report blaming the “highest levels” of the Syrian armed forces and government for the human rights violations and naming those held responsible in a sealed envelope that was given to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

The Chinese and Russian delegations cannot continue to close their eyes to the facts and paralyze the international community. There must be a united stand against the Assad regime at the special meeting of the UN Human Rights Council that is due to be held next week in Geneva.

In a video posted to YouTube on February 23, Bouvier, a freelancer who works for Le Figaro and other media, said that her femur was broken along its length and that she needed urgent evacuation. Daniels, a photographer, said he was lucky not to have been injured in the attack.

Conroy also appealed for assistance in a separate video, saying he had sustained three leg wounds in the attack that killed Ochlik, a French photographer, and Colvin, an American war correspondent.

Nine journalists have been killed in the course of their work in Syria since July of last year.

In all, nine journalists have been killed in the course of their work in Syria since July of last year. Gilles Jacquier, a French TV reporter working for France 2, was killed in Homs on January 11 after entering the country with the government’s permission. Syrian journalist Shoukri Ahmed Ratib Abu Bourghoul died in hospital on January 2 from a gunshot wound to the head that he had received three days earlier.

Citizen journalist Basil Al-Sayed, 24, was shot in the head by a member of the security forces while filming a bloodbath in Bab Amr on December 29, and died while being taken to hospital. Photographer and video-reporter Ferzat Jarban was murdered on November 20 after being arrested the previous day in Homs. Soleiman Saleh Abazaid, who ran the “Liberated people of Horan” Facebook page, was killed by a shot to the head on July 22.

Two other Syrian citizen journalists have also been killed. Ramy Al-Sayed of Shaam News Network was killed in a bombardment on February 21 while, Mazhar Tayyara, 24, also known as “Omar the Syrian,” was killed by shrapnel while helping to rescue wounded people during a major bombardment in Homs on the night of February 3. He had been working for Agence France-Presse for two months.

The authorities meanwhile continue to hold nine journalists and media freedom activists who were arrested during a raid on the Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression in Damascus on February 16. Those still detained, who included the head of the centre, Mazen Darwish, are all men. The seven women arrested during the raid have all been freed.

This article was originally published on Reporters Without Borders on February 24, 2012 and is reprinted with permission. Read the original post.

UPDATE

February 28, 2012
According to Conroy’s newspaper, The Sunday Times, and other news reports, British photographer Paul Conroy was evacuated on Tuesday, after being smuggled into Lebanon by opposition activists.

The French newspaper Le Figaro said yesterday it could not confirm the status of its reporter Edith Bouvier.

March 12, 2012
On March 1, 2012 Committee to Protest Journalists reported that Edith Bouvier and William Daniels have been evacuated from Syria into Lebanon.

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