Reporters Without Borders condemned Friday 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, together with the bodies of the two foreign journalists who were killed there on 22 February, Marie Colvin and Remy Ochlik. The cynicism of the government’s spurious pretexts is disgraceful.
The press freedom organization said it is very concerned about Bouvier and Conroy, who both sustained in leg injuries in the same bombardment of the Bab Amr media centre in Homs that killed Colvin and Ochlik, and 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 4 February, 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 is attending the “Friends of Syria” conference being held in Tunis today to define a humanitarian aid plan for the Syrian people. Reporters Without Borders has 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 22 February (read the Daily Telegraph and Libération stories).
At the same time, a UN independent commission of enquiry headed by Paulo Pinheiro yesterday 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 on YouTube yesterday, 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.
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 11 January after entering the country with the government’s permission. Syrian journalist Shoukri Ahmed Ratib Abu Bourghoul died in hospital on 2 January from a gunshot wound to the head that he had received three day 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 29 December, and died while being taken to hospital. Photographer and video-reporter Ferzat Jarban was murdered on 20 November 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 22 July.
Two other Syrian citizen journalists have also been killed. Ramy Al-Sayed of Shaam News Network was killed in a bombardment on 21 February 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 3 February. 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 16 February. 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.