CPJ Journalist Security Blog

Syria


Journalists ride in an army soldiers' carrier to the front line during clashes between forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and opposition fighters on August 24, 2013. (Reuters/Khaled al-Hariri)

In recent years, Arab journalists have been taking great risks to report important stories in a region where war and civil unrest remain an ever-present threat. Many are operating without proper equipment or safety training in how to recognize and mitigate the various risks they face.

Two murdered journalists for the Africa service of Radio France Internationale, Ghislaine Dupont, 51, and Claude Verlon, 58, might have had a chance. They were abducted on November 2 in Kidal in northern Mali, but the vehicle their captors were driving suddenly broke down, according to news reports.

The home page of SKeyes' interactive 'Journalist Survival Guide.'

A new English/Arabic online tool is available for citizen journalists who have no previous journalism experience or training but are reporting dangerous frontline stories. It uses animation--a novelty for such guides--and its arrival is timely.

An image grab from a YouTube video uploaded on December 18 allegedly shows NBC employees, from left to right, Aziz Akyavas, Richard Engel, and John Kooistra in captivity in Syria. (AFP/YouTube)

At any given time over the past two years, as wars raged in Libya and then Syria, and as other conflicts ground on in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, a number of journalists have been held captive by a diverse array of forces, from militants and rebels to criminals and paramilitaries. And at any given time, a small handful of these cases--sometimes one or two, sometimes more--have been purposely kept out of the news media. That is true today.

As Syria becomes riskier for both staff and freelance journalists, news organizations are more reliant on images from citizen journalists. An example is this image showing devastation in Aleppo, which was taken by the Aleppo Media Center and transmitted by The Associated Press on Sunday. (AP/Aleppo Media Center)

Forces on all sides of the Syrian conflict that have tried to censor news coverage through violence have won a round. By sharply increasing the risk for reporters covering the civil war they have forced news organizations to think twice before sending their staff to the battlefields. In a worrying development they even have led a leading UK newspaper, the Sunday Times, for which Marie Colvin was on assignment when she was killed last year in Homs, to refuse photographs submitted by freelancers.

A Syrian pilot shot down and taken prisoner is interviewed by Al-Jazeera on October 17. (YouTube)

A small number of journalists reporting from Syria have recently interviewed prisoners of war under highly coercive circumstances. In doing so, they have ignored the protections that are due to prisoners under international humanitarian law, or IHL.

The Baba Amr district of Homs in March 2011. (AFP/Shaam News Network)

When the story is so important but the risks are so high, journalists must keep safety at the forefront of their thinking. That's especially true for freelancers who often do not have the support of a large news organization. Preparation, peer networking, and smart planning can help improve the odds of not only surviving hostile situations but succeeding in one's work.

Ambulances carry the bodies of Marie Colvin and Rémi Ochlik, who were killed in government shelling in Syria. (Reuters/Khaled al-Hariri)

Murder is the leading cause of work-related deaths among journalists worldwide--and this year was no exception. But the death toll in 2012 continued a recent shift in the nature of journalist fatalities worldwide. More journalists were killed in combat situations in 2012 than in any year since 1992, when CPJ began keeping detailed records.

A woman stands next to a banner reading "No more impunity" in Colombia. (AFP/Raul Arboleda)

Here are the facts:

  • A journalist is killed in the line of duty somewhere around the world once every eight days.
  • Nearly three out of four are targeted for murder. The rest are killed in the crossfire of combat, or on dangerous assignments such as street protests.
  • Local journalists constitute the large majority of victims in all groups.
  • The murderers go unpunished in about nine out of 10 cases.
  • The overall number of journalists killed, and the number of journalists murdered, have each climbed since the 1990s.

The Russian manufacturer promises results. The software can be used to control your own or, say, a customer's computer by making it a remote software client. Or it could be used for spying on others.

Recent Tags

CPJ Journalist Security Guide

Active Discussions
Most Emailed
Blog Archives