Two Syrian journalists killed around New Year's Day

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The last two journalists reported killed at the turn of the year were Syrians; just at a time when protests and violence in the country are escalating, and the Arab League begins its initial assessment of the situation.

Shot on December 30, and the first journalist to die in 2012, was veteran journalist Shukri Ratib Abu Burghol. The senior journalist was shot in the face after arriving home from work at a radio station in Darayya, on the southern outskirts of the capital city Damascus. According to Reporters Without Borders, he died three days after the shooting at Al Mouwsat Hospital.

The Syrian uprising began 11 months ago with a "Day of Rage" on February 3, last year. Homs, north of Damascus, has been a flashpoint of the revolution.

Burghol, 56, was a journalist for about 21 years, working for the newspaper Al-Thawra (The Revolution) whilst also hosting a weekly show for Radio Damascus. A source told the Xinhua news agency Burghol had received threats.

Basil Al-Sayed became the last journalist to die in 2011, shot on December 29 by a sniper in the city of Homs. The Arab League has confirmed that the Syrian government have been seen using snipers against protesters elsewhere in Daraa. The shooting of Al-Sayed took place in the Bab Amr section of Homs. The city has been one of the hot spots for protests against Bashar al-Assad's government during 2011. In the last week of the year, the Bab Amr neighbourhood was attacked by the Syrian military and experienced heavy violence.

The 24-year-old camera operator was a citizen journalist who uploaded his videos to video-sharing sites to spread information about the protests. Photojournalists and camera operators have been some of the the most at-risk during the Arab uprisings in Tunisia and Libya. Ferzat Jarban — the first known journalist to be killed in Syria — was a freelance camera operator, arrested on November 19 whilst filming protests in Al-Qusayr, Homs Governorate. He was found dead the following day. In Syria, citizen journalists like Al-Sayed, and freelancers like Jarban, have been risking their lives by openly recording videos of protests which may serve as documentary evidence of human rights' abuse.

Currently information is hard to verify and reliable independent sources are largely banned or restricted inside Syria. Foreign journalists have been barred from the country, and from covering the protests.

What do you think of people risking their lives to get video footage of the Syrian protests?

At the end of 2011 Arab League observers had sent out observers to different cities in Syria to monitor the situation, whilst one of its advisers called for the organization to retreat after Al-Assad's government reneged on agreements to halt the crackdown.

According to Navi Pillay, High Commissioner for Human Rights at the United Nations, more than 5,000 people have been killed during the Syrian uprising, a figure that includes around 300 children.

Three journalists are now known to have been killed in Syria.

In December, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) addressed an open letter to Syrian President Al-Assad calling for the release of all journalists in detention; the CPJ documented 29 cases of journalists being detained in 2011.

The CPJ reported that 45 journalists were killed worldwide in 2011, whereas — using differing criteria — Reporters Without Borders state that 66 journalists around the world died in 2011, and assert that, by almost every indicator, violence and censorship against international journalists was worse in 2011, up 16% on their 2010 figures.