French foreign minister Alain Juppe addresses reporters outside the "Friends of Syria" conference in Tunis. (AP/Amine Landoulsi)
French foreign minister Alain Juppe addresses reporters outside the "Friends of Syria" conference in Tunis. (AP/Amine Landoulsi)

CPJ calls on Syrian authorities to halt violence

New York, February 24, 2012–Syrian authorities must heed the call issued by more than 60 countries today to stop the ongoing shelling in Syria, and allow medical access and safe passage to the wounded and dead journalists trapped in Homs, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

Representatives from more than 60 countries met on Friday in Tunis at the “Friends of Syria” conference to discuss a solution to the ongoing crisis. The group called on the Syrian regime to implement an immediate cease-fire, allow for the delivery of humanitarian aid, and end hostilities, and also requested that the United Nations begin planning a peacekeeping mission, news reports said.

On Friday afternoon, news accounts reported that the Syrian Red Crescent had begun to evacuate injured women and children from the district of Baba Amr in Homs, but none of the journalists had been evacuated yet, a spokeswoman for the International Committee of the Red Cross told Reuters.

Government forces shelled the besieged neighborhood of Baba Amr on Wednesday, killing Marie Colvin of the Times and Rémi Ochlik, a French photographer, in the attack, according to news reports. Edith Bouvier, a French reporter for Le Figaro, and Paul Conroy, a British photographer for The Sunday Times, were injured in the same attack, news reports said. Bouvier and Conroy, and the bodies of Colvin and Ochlik, remain trapped in Homs, news reports said.

“The Syrian army must immediately cease its shelling to allow for humanitarian aid to reach the besieged city of Homs where hundreds of civilians have been killed in recent days, including journalists,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “For more than two days now, journalists Edith Bouvier and Paul Conroy have been injured and trapped in Homs, and the bodies of Marie Colvin and Rémi Ochlik have been prevented from reaching their families.”

Bouvier, who required medical attention for a shattered femur, posted a video plea on YouTube on Thursday, saying she needed an urgent operation and an ambulance to evacuate her. Her doctor, who also appeared in the video, said she had to be evacuated immediately.

Shortly after, Conroy also posted a video plea on YouTube, which showed the three large leg wounds he sustained from the attack. His doctor said he needed to be evacuated immediately. Constant shelling around them could be heard in the background of the video.

Two other journalists, William Daniels, a reporter for Le Figaro and Time magazine, and Javier Espinosa, a reporter for the Spanish daily El Mundo, are also in Homs.

Hundreds of civilians have been killed in Homs recently. Another journalist, Rami al-Sayed, was killed in Baba Amr on Tuesday. Seven journalists have died in Syria since November, CPJ research shows.