Two Media Workers Killed and Six Arrested and Abducted, toll of June
SNHR has released its report that documents violations against media workers by all parties to the conflict in Syria, noting that 17 media workers were killed in the first half of 2018, including two who died in June.
The report notes that all of the parties to the conflict have oppressed journalists and citizen journalists to varying extents, committing crimes qualifying as war crimes against them. The Syrian regime, however, is the party who has perpetrated most of these crimes since March 2011, where the Syrian regime has been responsible for up to 83% as it waged a systematic war on media work, committing hundreds of violations against journalists and citizen journalists, including killing, arrest, and torture in an attempt to conceal the human rights violations that the Syrian people are being subjected to and hide the crimes against Syrian citizens.
According to the report, ISIS, factions from the armed opposition and Self-Management forces resorted to suppressing views as a policy in their areas of control as seen by the wide arrests they made.
The report stresses that a journalist is a civilian individual according to the international humanitarian law regardless of their nationality. Any attack deliberately directed against a journalist is considered a war crime. However, when a media worker gets close to action-heavy zones, they are responsible for their own actions where targeting them in such case would be seen as collateral damage. Also, they would lose the right to protection if they were involved in hostilities.
According to the report’s methodology, a citizen journalist is anyone who plays a significant role in reporting and publishing news. He is not necessarily impartial as a journalist should be. In case a citizen journalist bore arms and was directly engaged in hostilities, he would be no longer deemed a citizen journalist whereas it is possible that he would be referred to as a citizen journalist again, provided he retires completely from military action.
This report draws upon, firstly, daily, ongoing documentation and monitoring efforts by SNHR team, and on accounts from survivors, eyewitnesses, and local media workers. The report contains four accounts that were collected through speaking directly to eyewitnesses, and not cited from any open sources, in addition to analyzing a large number of the videos and pictures that were posted online or were sent by local activists.
The report notes that June saw a drop in the rates of bombardments by Syrian-Russian alliance forces throughout Syria which had a notable impact on the numbers of media workers killed. On the other hand, the report records the death of two media workers due to torture at Syrian regime forces’ detention center, as their families were informed of their death when they went to the Syrian regime’s civil registration office.
Also, the report records that a number of media workers were abducted and arrested in light of the security unrest that is running rampant throughout north Syria.
The report records that 17 media workers have been killed since the start of 2018. Of those, the Syrian regime was responsible for 10 deaths, while the report that Russian forces, ISIS, factions from the armed opposition, and Kurdish Self-Management forces were responsible for one death each. Lastly, three media workers were killed at the hands of other parties.
The report adds that 21 media workers were injured in the first half of 2018, including nine by Syrian regime forces and eight by Russian forces, while one media worker was injured by Kurdish Self-Management forces and three by other parties.
In addition, the report documents 16 cases of arrest, abduction, and release in the first half of 2018. Two of those were by Hay’at Tahrir al Sham, while factions from the armed opposition were responsible for seven, as two of the seven detainees were released. One media worker was arrested and released later by Kurdish Self-Management forces, while other parties abducted two media workers, where one of the two abductees was released later.
Further, the report records three other violations against media workers in the first half of 2018, including two by Syrian regime forces, while the third violation was by other parties.
The report records the killing of two media workers due to torture at the Syrian regime’s detention centers in June.
Also, the report records that Hay’at Tahrir al Sham arrested one media worker, in addition to four arrest cases by factions from the armed opposition, and one abduction case by other parties.
The report calls on the OHCHR to condemn the targeting of media workers in Syria and shed light on their sacrifice and suffering. In addition, the report calls on the COI and the IIIM to launch investigations on the targeting of media workers specifically, considering their integral role in recording incidents in Syria, as the report emphasizes that SNHR is willing to cooperate and provide more evidences and data.
Additionally, the report calls on the Security Council to fight impunity policies by referring the case in Syria to the International Criminal Court.
Moreover, the report calls on the Arabic and international media institutions to support their colleagues in the field of media by publishing periodic reports that shed light on their daily suffering and memorialize their sacrifice. Also, they should contact their families to console them.
Finally, the report stresses that all parties have to respect the international humanitarian law in their areas of control with in relation to the protection of civilians and especially media workers and their equipment.