July 25, 2018
High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice President of the European Commission
Rue de la Loi / Wetstraat 200 1049 Brussels
Dear High Representative/Vice-President Mogherini,
I am writing about the recent escalation of violence in southern Syria and to request your help with the protection of scores of journalists who remain in the country at grave risk. The more than 60 journalists are in danger of arrest and torture because of their work.
We are seeking the assistance of European Union member states to provide safe haven for some of the journalists and your help in ensuring that Jordan, Israel, and Turkey provide safe passage. At least two countries thus far have said they are willing to take five journalists each and their families. That leaves dozens more who need safe haven, while all require the assurance of safe passage.
The situation on the ground is evolving quickly and our organization is in direct contact with members of the group of besieged journalists, who are terrified. Some have already been bussed to rebel-controlled territory in northern Syria, others are en route, and yet others remain in southern Syria in extreme danger. CPJ and other international press freedom groups have vetted the 69 journalists and confirmed that some are working for Syrian TV channels and local news channels, two are stringers for Agence France-Presse, and one is a stringer for Reuters.
Hundreds of members of the White Helmets, a volunteer workforce that acts to save people in Syria's war zones, were successfully evacuated from southern Syria over the last few days. Like these volunteers, the journalists who remain in Syria have put their lives on the line to provide a critical public service to their country and the world: they bring us the news from one of the bleakest corners of the earth. Syria is one of the most dangerous places in the world for journalists. At the time of CPJ's most recent prison census, at least seven journalists were in Syrian state prisons, and several, including Bilal Ahmed Bilal and Niraz Saeed, died in state custody. Many others are missing. At least 120 journalists have been killed covering the Syrian conflict, and government or military officials are suspected in more than half of those deaths.
The Committee to Protect Journalists has been in contact with a range of governments including Canada, Mexico, Costa Rica, Ecuador, the United States and EU member states, about accepting the journalists and their families as refugees. We are also calling for international mediation and cooperation with Israel, Jordan, and Turkey to provide safe passage out of Syria for these journalists and their families. Your support and assistance will be invaluable to these efforts.
Thank you in advance for your help and I look forward to hearing back from you to discuss further potential solutions for this extremely urgent matter.
Committee to Protect Journalists