Reporters Without Borders, an international, France-based non-governmental organization that advocates freedom of the press and freedom of information, has listed the Syrian regime as a Predator of Freedom of the Press, and with good reason.
To quash reports of what is actually happening in Homs and Deraa, Aleppo, and even Damascus, the Syrian government has attempted to block independent news coverage by any means necessary.
They have denied entry to dozens of foreign journalists, and arrested, abducted, beaten, tortured and even killed journalists, photographers, and bloggers to prevent them from furnishing to the world proof that the Syrian military is slaughtering civilians.
Nonetheless, thanks to citizen journalists like Rami al-Sayed and his cousin Basil, the world got a first-hand view of what is really happening in Syria. They streamed live video of street protests of the bombardment of Homs. Both died as a result of their journalistic activities.
On Thursday, February 23, State Department Deputy Spokesperson Mark Toner said, “We...extend our deepest condolences to their families and loved ones and...note that their sacrifice in chronicling the daily suffering of the people of Homs stands as a testament to journalism’s highest standards.”
French journalist Gilles Jacquier of the France 2 television station was killed in Homs on January 11. Veteran American reporter Marie Colvin and French free-lance photographer Remi Ochlik sneaked into Syria and, along with a number of other journalists, began to work out of a house that still had electricity and an internet connection in the Baba Amr district of Homs.
On February 22, Syrian artillery targeted that building, and during the intense bombardment that followed, both Colvin and Ochlik were killed. Three other journalists were injured.
U.N. Security Council resolution 1738 obliges states to ensure the safety of journalists in war zones, because journalists and media centers are neutral and cannot be targets. Nonetheless, the Syrian government is persisting in its bloody policy of censorship and suppression of information.
We condemn in the strongest possible terms the Syrian government’s use of detention and violence against journalists in order to maintain an information black-out. No amount of effort to stop information from leaking to the outside world will keep the press silent.