Assad’s military crackdown makes journalism a perilous mission
Last week, the Syrian military’s continued shelling of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) in the Baba Amr neighborhood of Homs lead to international outrage over the deaths of foreign journalists. Many sources say it was an intentional attempt by President Bashar al-Assad to target the leaking of reports out of the country.
Marie Colvin, an American writer working with the London Sunday Times, and Remi Ochlik, a French photojournalist, are so far the only two confirmed dead a group of foreign journalists that were smuggled into Syria weeks ago.
Colleagues Paul Conroy (UK), William Daniels (France) and Javier Espinosa (Spain) have been evacuated to Lebanon by volunteers from the FSA.
Meanwhile another journalist, Edith Bouvier (France), was initially reported to be with the others but this statement was later retracted and her location has not yet been confirmed.
A global activist network called Avaaz coordinated the smuggling efforts along the same routes of their Syrian operations to sneak in medical supplies and communication tools from Lebanon. The rescue operation took 26 hours and cost at least three Syrian volunteers their lives with others injured.
Assad has not made it easy for journalism to reach Syria. Although the foreign journalists were fortunate enough to have limited access to electricity, phone lines and an Internet connection supplied by a small generator in their Baba Amr media centre, most of Homs has been completely blacked out.
This blackout was confirmed by opposition fighter Abu Abdu al-Homsi who explained that Assad’s regime was using it to lock on to satellite phone signals for tactical strikes. Also, the mobile live stream service Bambuser (Sweden), which has been in contact with activists for months, has been blocked from the 50 to 200 citizen journalists, like Rami Ahmad Alsayeed, who used it to get stories out of Syria instantly.
Alsayeed was killed last week as well in the strike on Homs. With such an intense need for media attention civilians are taking it upon themselves to prevent Syrian voices from being silenced.
The reality is that Assad’s regime is creating circumstances that put innocent lives in peril on a daily basis as the Bashar power structure attempts to keep a stranglehold on history.
In almost a year Assad’s regime has killed over 7, 500 revolting civilians and there is evidence that, following the escalations of this month, the death toll now regularly exceeds 100 per day.