About 82% of Them Killed at the Hands of the Syrian-Russian Alliance
In a report release today, World Press Freedom Day, SNHR said that no less than 682 media workers have been killed in Syria since March 2011, 82% were killed at the hands of the Syrian-Russian alliance.
The report notes that journalism and traditional journalists haven’t been able to cover what was happening in detail, in light of the rapid developments in Syria, so it has fallen upon citizens, who received some training on journalistic work, to fill this void, which made them automatically a direct target for anyone they expose by recording, writing, or sharing news of their violations.
According to the report, not only did the Syrian regime and its allies targeted citizen journalists through killing, arrest, and torture, but they went as far as to hire tens of journalists to adopt and promote the Syrian regime’s narrative, deny its violations, distort facts and strip them of any context or credibility. The Syrian regime was mainly aided by the Iranian regime who has a great deal of experience in creating English content, as well as some Hezbollah-supporting Lebanese media outlets and the Russian media. All of these apparatuses worked together to deny the bombing on hospitals, schools, and markets and deny the siege and starvation of populations, while adopting the narrative of the Syrian regime’s war on terror and terrorist groups and polishing its image without forgetting to thank its Iranian and Russian allies.
The report notes that Syrian regime forces were responsible for approximately 90% of the recorded violations against citizen journalists. On the other hand, the report adds that all parties to the conflict all parties tried to oppress media outlets, distort facts, or exaggerate the brutality of their foes in some form or another and to varying degrees. This undermined the integrity and credibility of many media outlets.
Fadel Abdul Ghany, chairman of SNHR, adds:
“Citizen journalist have played an integral role in recording and narrating incidents and violations, and providing human rights groups with data. We have collaborated with them a lot. We mustn’t forget what they have contributed. Some of them sacrificed their lives and freedoms to expose and memorialize the truth and use it to defend their families and country.”
The report documents that 682 media workers were killed, including seven children and six women between March 2011 and May 2018 at the hands of parties to the conflict in Syria. Also, among the victims were eight foreign journalists and 37 who died due to torture. Syrian regime forces and Iranian militias were responsible for the killing of 538, of the 682 media workers who were killed, while Russian forces killed 18. In addition, 69 were killed by extremist Islamic groups, whereas factions from the armed opposition killed 25. Kurdish Self-Management forces killed four, and international coalition forces killed one, Lastly, 27 media workers were killed at the hands of other parties.
Moreover, the report stresses that the arrest and abduction of citizen journalists that have been going on for seven years was a part of the attempts to block and conceal the atrocities and violations that are being perpetrated in Syria, adding that most detainees have become forcibly-disappeared, especially the ones who are being detained in Syrian regime prisons.
According to the report, 1,116 media workers, including five women, were arbitrarily arrested or forcibly-disappeared at the hands of the parties to the conflict in Syria between March 2011 and May 2018. Also, among the victims were 33 foreign journalists. Of the 1,116, 833 were arrested by Syrian regime forces, while extremist Islamic groups arrested 122. Kurdish Self-Management forces arrested 56, and factions from the armed opposition arrested 64. In addition, the report records 41 cases of arrest by parties that the report hasn’t been able to identify.
Additionally, the report sheds light on exploiting the profession of journalism un Syria to serve criminals and polish their image, and to terrorize anyone who dared to stand in their face. There have been many videos of the brutal torture against opposers while other videos contained sectarian slurs. In addition, some videos contained visual effects that were falsely credited to factions from the armed opposition as an attempt to prove that the videos that activists were sharing from inside Eastern Ghouta were merely fabrications.
The report notes that the international humanitarian law has emphasized that journalists engaged in dangerous missions in areas of armed conflict shall be considered as civilians and protected as such, provided that they take no action adversely affecting their status as civilians, according to Article 79 of the Protocols additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949. Further, rule 34 of the customary rules of the international humanitarian law states, Civilian journalists engaged in professional missions in areas of armed conflict must be respected and protected as long as they are not taking a direct part in hostilities.”
According to the report, a number of Security Council Resolutions, 1738 and 2222, have condemned attacks and acts of violence against journalists and media workers.
In addition, the report calls on the Security Council to join the fight against impunity by referring the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court.
The report also calls on the OHCHR to condemn the targeting of media workers in Syria, and shed light on their sacrifices and suffering.
Moreover, the report calls on the COI and the IIIM to investigate the targeting of media workers in particular given their vital role in recording incidents in Syria.
The report emphasizes the role of the Arabic and international media institution in advocating their fellow media workers by releasing regular reports that shed light on their daily suffering and memorialize their sacrifice.