22 February 2012

Deadly day for journalists in Homs

Rémi Ochlik's photo,
Rémi Ochlik's photo, "Battle for Libya" (above), was a 2012 World Press Photo winner. Ochlik was killed on 21 February in Syria alongside U.S. journalist Marie Colvin
Rémi Ochlik
Two foreign journalists and a Syrian videographer have been killed by mortar shells in the Syrian city of Homs, which has been under siege this past month, report the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), the International Press Institute (IPI), the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and other IFEX members.

Marie Colvin, a U.S. reporter for the London-based "Sunday Times", and French photographer Rémi Ochlik were killed on 21 February when a rocket hit the temporary media centre set up by opposition members in the heavily-bombarded Baba Amr area of Homs.

"The killing of these journalists, who were observers in a conflict zone, represents an unacceptable escalation in the price that local and international journalists are being forced to pay," said the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

Three other journalists, including British photographer Paul Conroy and French reporter Edith Bouvier, are believed to have been injured, report the members.

According to IPI, Rami al-Sayed, who used the handle "syriapioneer" on YouTube and the live-streaming site Bambuser, was also killed in shelling yesterday. He was "was crucial in getting the truth out" about the extent of the assault on Homs, and had helped document civilian injuries and deaths, CNN quoted a local opposition activist as saying.

According to IPI, the recent killings bring to seven the total number of journalists killed in Syria since the start of the conflict last year.

Security forces have targeted press centres and journalists in an attempt to prevent them from reporting their violations against Syrians, say the members.

According to IPI, some activists reportedly fear that signals from journalists' satellite cell phones are being traced, and that the buildings from which they emanate are then targeted by Syrian forces.

And last week, at least 14 journalists and campaigners from the Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM) were arrested. The women were freed conditionally three days later but nine men, including the centre's director, Mazen Darwish, are still being held. At least 30 rights groups, including many of IFEX's international and regional members, are jointly demanding their immediate release.

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