The Syrian Regime is Killing Media Activists at Higher Rates that before Ankara Ceasefire Agreement
SNHR has published its monthly report documenting the violations by the various conflict parties in Syria against media activists who play a prominent role in the civil movement and the armed conflict.
According to the report, media activism in Syria is continuously deteriorating as many international organizations are not paying enough attention to what is happening in Syria and the notable decline in media coverage over the last year compared with previous years.
The report notes that a journalist is a civilian according to the international humanitarian law regardless of his nationality. Any attack directed against a journalist is considered a war crime. However, when a media activist gets close to military targets, he is responsible for his own actions where targeting him in such case would be seen as collateral damage. Also, he would lose the right to protection if he was involved in military operations. The report also notes that media activists must be respected whether they have identification papers as media workers or don’t considering the many difficulties they encounter to acquire these papers.
Fadel Abd Al Ghany, chairman of SNHR, adds:
“Media activism is especially important because it often sheds light on a string of various crimes that are taking place on a daily basis. Therefore, we record the violations perpetrated by conflicting parties in our monthly reports on violations against media activists.”
The report notes that Since the Ankara Ceasefire Agreement went into effect in Syria, especially the areas under the control of armed opposition factions, as the Syrian regime-held areas aren’t subjected to heavy, daily aerial bombardment, which has resulted in the killing of no less than 60% of the victims, and destroyed buildings, displacing the people of Syria. However, the report adds that breaches didn’t stop, mainly by the Syrian regime, who is seemingly the party that would be affected the most should the ceasefire go on, especially crimes of extrajudicial killing, and, more horrendously, dying due to torture, which strongly proves that there is some sort of ceasefire on the table. The crimes, however, that the international community wasn’t able to notice, and particularly the Turkish and Russian sponsors, are still ongoing as nothing has changed in that regard.
The report stresses that SNHR hasn’t noticed a decrease in rates of media activists’ killings by the Syrian regime forces after Ankara Ceasefire Agreement that it exceeded in February what was recorded in the months prior to the Agreement.
According to SNHR’s methodology, a civilian journalist is anyone who plays a notable role in reporting and publishing news. He is not necessarily impartial as a journalist should be. In case a civilian journalist carried a weapon and was directly engaged in offensive military operations, he is no longer deemed a citizen journalist as long as he is involved in such operations.
This report draws upon SNHR archive and the investigations conducted by the Network in addition to accounts by victims’ families, information from local activists, and analyzing the pictures and video footages that we have been receiving amid security and logistic difficulties to access all the areas where violations take place. Therefore, it is worth noting that these statistics and incidents are only the bare minimum of the actual magnitude of crimes and violations that happened.
The report sheds light on the most notable violations against media activists that occurred in February 2017 where the report recorded the killing of five media activists by the Syrian regime forces and one media activist by ISIS.
Furthermore, the report documented two cases of arrest at the hands of Fateh al Sham Front, where one of the two detainees were released, one release by armed opposition factions, and one arrest by the Kurdish Self-management forces were the detained media activist was released later.
According to the report, nine media activists were injured by Syrian regime forces, and one was injured by other parties.
Additionally, the report documents that one media office was bombed by fixed-wing Syrian regime forces warplanes.
The report emphasizes that serious and quick steps must be taken to save media activism in Syria and renews its condemnation of all violations against the freedom of media activism regardless of the perpetrators. The freedom of media must be respected and the workers in the media field must be protected and particularly considered.
The report calls on the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic to conduct investigations that focuses on the targeting of media activists given their vital role in recording incidents in Syria.
Also, the report calls on international and Arabic media institution to advocate their colleagues in the field of media by publishing periodic reports that shed light on their daily suffering and memorialize their sacrifice.