Syrian media in turmoil

Ayman al-Sahili, a Reuters cameraman, reacts as he was shot in the leg while filming on the front line in Syria's north city of Aleppo by a sniper loyal to the regime. File photo

ARA News

Urfa, Turkey – Over the past years of deadly war in Syria, human rights organizations have documented what they described “the sacrifices of media activists in Syria” as journalism became a suicidal occupation in Syria. According to figures produced by local documentation centers,  media workers are considered a primary group of war victims in Syria. 

The Syrian Center for Press Freedoms has documented the death of 266 journalists, media workers, and citizen journalists in Syria since the outbreak of the crisis in 2011.

The Center pointed out that in 2014 the overall violations against media workers reached 113, and the death toll among journalists and media activists reached 54, while it exceeded 103 in 2013, and 100 in 2012. However, this does not reflect the improvement of the situation, as the pace of targeting journalists remained on the same level despite the relative decline in casualties and violations.

“Various kinds of violations have been disclosed during the four-year war in Syria: mass murder and other violations appeared which exceeded the capacity of the usual protection measures taken by journalists,” the Syrian Center’s report stated.

Syria was ranked as the number one country in terms of violations against media workers in 2014, where 50 cases of the total 113 were carried out by the Syrian regime’s forces; whereas the Islamic State group (IS/ISIS) was responsible for 20 cases.

Regarding the areas where violations took place in 2014, the report said: “The Syrian provinces of Aleppo came first and the number of violations committed there reached 26 cases, followed by Hasakah province with 21 cases, and 63 violations were committed against citizen journalists, while 7 cases were against foreign journalists.”

Additionally, 13 centers, offices, and media establishments were targeted by armed troops, including bombing operations, six of which took place in Aleppo.

Commenting on the situation of Syrian journalists, Mustafa Abdi, director of Radio ARTA FM in Kobane, told ARA News: “Journalism in Syria is simply a death mission; the Syrian regime and most of the armed opposition groups consider journalists as their enemies.”

“Citizen journalists are exposed to physical liquidation, murder and arrest, mainly by pro-Assad forces. Most of the cases are documented,” Abdi said.

“However, the armed opposition have also arrested and killed many people including journalists, while still the fate of many others remain unknown, such as Mohammed Muslim, Farhad Hamo, and Masoud Aqeel,” he said.

Abdi added that freedom of expression and journalism remain at stake in Syria amid the continuous suppression by the different armed forces in the war-torn country.  

“This led to a lack of commitment to the principles and ethics of media work, declining credibility, accuracy and impartiality,” he argued. “The military media is taking over.”

Speaking to ARA News, Mustafa Haji Farooq, a Syrian Kurdish journalist, said that the deadly war claimed lives of dozens “from those who have chosen to convey the truth to the world”.

“Unfortunately, there is a large number of victims among journalists, especially in the last two years,” Haji added, pointing out that violations were not confined to the Syrian journalists, but also several fellow foreign journalists lost their lives in this war-torn country.

“We appeal to the international organizations to protect journalists, especially since they are risking their lives in order to provide the world with a true image of this devastating war and the various violations against human rights,” he said.  

Zara Misto, director of Walati Network” in Kobane, confirmed to ARA News that the total number of journalists killed in Syria reached 390 by the end of January 2015.

He pointed out that the Kurdish areas are relatively safer for media workers, “despite the occurrence of some violations against several Kurdish journalists by the Asayish forces of the PYD-linked Auto-Administration during the last period”.

“In the areas held by the radical group of Islamic State (IS/ISIS) or the regime forces, freelance journalists are arrested and killed, except those who are directly working for the propaganda of the forces in control of their areas,” Misto argued.

Professional journalists and media workers believe that the Syrian media needs to remain neutral and professional in order to enjoy the respect and acceptance of the world, which cannot be done in light of the Syrian media alternative institutions mostly funded by political parties or military groups.


Reporting by: Jan Nasro

Source: ARA News

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