The media freedom committee of the Syrian Journalists Association, with whom the International Press Institute (IPI) has cooperated in its efforts to verify information related to attacks against journalists in Syria, announced that 100 media activists, citizen reporters and journalists have been killed in Syria since the start of the conflict last year. Thirty-six journalists lost their lives in 2012 while on assignment in Syria, according to the IPI Death Watch, which includes only journalists.
According to a statement from the Syrian Journalists Association (SJA), with the death of 13 further media activists and citizen reporters in November, the death toll of media workers in Syria is now at 100, with no signs that the situation is improving.
Many journalists, citizen reporters and media activists, who died while collecting information on the Syrian conflict, appear to have been the victims of targeted killings, rather than being accidentally killed in the crossfire.
“There appear to be a trend toward targeting journalists and anybody who seeks to disseminate information from Syria,” IPI Press Freedom Manager Barbara Trionfi said. “We reiterate that journalists are civilians and, together with media installation, they are not legitimate military targets and should be protected rather than assaulted, as numerous international treaties have stated. All sides must refrain from targeting members of the media.”
IPI and other press freedom organizations use varying criteria to define how many journalists or media workers have lost their lives in any given year – the International Press Institute, for instance, counts all journalists who lost their lives while on assignment and who were targeted because of their work.
The SJA’s records, on the other hand, include professional journalists as well as media activists and citizen reporters. According to the SJA’s criteria, citizen journalists are considered to be those doing journalistic work for professional media, even if those individuals do not necessarily have a degree in journalism or official accreditation. IPI and the SJA use the term “media activists” to refer to those who use their cell phones or other non-professional equipment to capture video and sounds and share them with the world on the Internet, often with the intention of showing violence and human rights violations perpetrated by the Syrian government. Because of the extreme restrictions placed on journalists in Syria, media activists have played an important role in bringing information and images from the conflict to the rest of the world – and even to other parts of Syria – and for this reason, have often been the target of deadly attacks.
Massoud Akko, head of the Media Freedoms Committee of the SJA, criticized both the opposition and government forces for “intentionally” killing media workers. He called on the international community to increase pressure on Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad. Members of the international community, he said, should take action by speaking out or commissioning a report about journalism in Syria.
“I think now [the international community has] all the information about the situation of media activists in Syria,” he said, stressing that the SJA, which documents press freedom attacks, was ready to cooperate on this issue. “During this revolution, 100 [of them] were killed. It is not an easy or simple number.”