Syria: A Deadly Country for Reporters

By Jason Kanno

Syrian kissing Independence flag

Syrian kissing Independence flag

There are fewer places in the world more dangerous for journalists to report than Syria. The ongoing civil war in Syria has claimed the lives of at least 17 journalists since it began last November. Most recently, the parents of American journalist Austin Tice pleaded for the safe return of their son after he went missing in mid-August while reporting in Syria.

Tice began reporting from Syria in May after crossing the Turkish border. He last contacted his parents on Aug. 13.  A YouTube video of Tice was posted on Sept. 26 indicating he had been kidnapped. The Syrian government denied any knowledge of Tice’s whereabouts. Meanwhile, Tice’s parents flew to Beirut in hopes of finding more information about their son and to appeal for his release.

Tice’s parents are not alone in their suspicion of the Syrian government. The State Department also believes Tice is in the custody of Bashar Al-Assad’s regime. Despite appearances that Tice is in the hands of Syrian rebels, State Department officials question the authenticity of the video, noting the unusual high quality of the video compared to lower resolution videos typically taken by Syrian rebel forces.

Tice is but one in a growing line of journalists who have either gone missing or been killed while reporting on Syria’s civil war. Among the most prominent journalists killed in the conflict was Marie Colvin, who along with French photographer Remi Ochlik, was killed when the Syrian government shelled the city of Homs. Colvin was a well-respected journalist who reported from some of the world’s most dangerous conflicts zones, including Chechyna and Sri Lanka.

The Syrian government is not the sole perpetrator in violence against journalists. Syrian rebels were implicated in the death of Press TV correspondent Maya Nasser while British journalist John Cantile was kidnapped and threatened with beheading by Islamist radicals before he was rescued by the Free Syrian Army. Even Syrian media are targeted, including television presenter Mohammed al Saeed who was murdered in his home by Islamist fighters Al-Nusra.

The Committee to Protect Journalists, which records violence against journalists, finds at least 28 journalists were killed in Syria since the beginning of the uprising in 2011 . The Committee’s data show Syria to be the deadliest country for reporters in 2012. With no end in sight to the conflict in Syria, it remains likely that journalists covering the rebellion will face further violence and death.

Photograph by FreedomHouse via Flickr

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