Syria: Were the journalists deliberately targeted?
I first met Marie Colvin in London in the nineties; she was one of the most knowledge people on Middle Eastern affairs working at the Sunday Times. She was also one of the few American journalists who worked and succeeded in the British print media. She was known for her bravery, to the point that she refused to give up her career in the media after losing an eye whilst covering a previous conflict. Therefore, I wasn’t surprised to hear that she had snuck into Syria, which can today be considered the most dangerous battlefield in the world.
You might ask: why haven’t we seen Arab journalists taking such risks for the sake of reporting and documenting what is happening in Syria? In reality, I know many Arab reporters – including colleagues – who sought to sneak into the country, however my advice on such situations is always the same, namely: don’t take risks when the threat is practically guaranteed! Before French reporter Gilles Jacquier was killed in Syria two months ago, we were aware that Arab journalists were being targeted, particularly as the [Syrian] regime thinks nothing about killing an Arab journalist. This is because [at this time] none of the Arab governments would condemn or seek punishment for their citizen’s death. As for western journalists, targeting them is expensive, as this would have triggered a campaign by the Western media against the Syrian regime.
At this point, I must say that the Syrian revolutionaries are carrying out excellent media work, no less effective than the work of the professional media. They report information accurately, sending live images and documentation of what is happening on the ground, as well as recording the full names of victims, answering all the how, why, and what questions. There can also be no doubt that western reporters, for their part, have granted the Syrian revolution’s media reporters a greater sense of credibility, by working with them on the ground, and confirming – thanks to their own reports and footage – that what the revolutionaries are reporting is indeed accurate. This is despite the difficulties the media faces in revealing everything that is happening in Syria because of the magnitude of the war that is being waged by the Syrian regime forces.
I believe that the shelling of the media center in the Baba Amro neighbourhood of Homs was a deliberate act on the part of the Syrian government forces, with the objective of killing foreign journalists. The regime’s aggressive attitude towards western journalists – two killed and four others injured in this attack – reflects an escalation in the level of the confrontation; indeed this conflict is now at its highest level. In the past, the regime avoided harming western journalists, with the exception of one French reporter being killed as part of an open confrontation with the French government.
As for why the regime has now dared to kill westerners in such a violent way? The logical explanation is that this is an indication that the regime intends to commit even greater massacres and expand its military operations for the sake of turning off the lights and ending the unbiased reporting that is coming out from these targeted areas. In other words, we are entering an even more dangerous phase at a time when – unfortunately – the world is standing idly by.
The Syrian regime, which has relaxed following Russia and China’s double veto at the UN Security Council, is feeling increasingly secure against any possible international intervention. Damascus believes that the world is not interested in rescuing people who are being oppressed and massacred, particularly after the last such war in Libya. This is what the Syrian regime believes, and perhaps it is right, however the killing of western journalists is something that will provoke everybody in the media, particularly in the West where certain elements of the media believes that the Syrian revolution is an extremist movement that will bring Al Qaeda or the Salafists to power. However with this massacring of journalists, the Syrian regime has lost any hopes for support, even from those who are sceptical or hesitant. Any regime that has targeted neutral professionals, such as journalists, medics, and charity volunteers, is drawing its last breaths, not because it has intentionally killed such figures, but because the killing of such cadres reveals the weakness and inability of the regime and represents proof of its impending demise.