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Syrian president claims US journalist Marie Colvin was "responsible" for her own death

Syria's President Bashar al-Assad (L) speaks during an interview with NBC News in this handout picture provided by SANA on July 14, 2016
Syria's President Bashar al-Assad (L) speaks during an interview with NBC News in this handout picture provided by SANA on July 14, 2016

SANA/Handout via REUTERS

This statement was originally published on on 19 July 2016.

The International Press Institute (IPI) today denounced Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's statements regarding the circumstances surrounding the 2012 death of IPI World Press Freedom Hero Marie Colvin in Syria, calling the comments irresponsible and ignorant of Syria's international obligations.

On July 13, Assad spoke with NBC News extensively on a variety of topics, including Colvin's death in a rocket blast in Homs. He claimed that because Colvin had entered Syria illegally, she was “responsible of everything that befell her”. He also alleged that Colvin worked with terrorists.

IPI Director of Press Freedom Programmes Scott Griffen said IPI “deplored” the president's comments.“Marie Colvin was in Syria performing an incredibly valuable and brave service to the international public by covering the events of the civil war there and, in particular, the siege of Homs,” he said. “To claim that she was in some way responsible for her own death not only blatantly disregards state responsibility for the protection of journalists, but also suggests that the Syrian government is uninterested in investigating whether Colvin's media centre was deliberately targeted, as some have claimed.”

Assad denied that Syrian government forces played any role in Colvin's death. When pressed by the interviewer on why the house in which Colvin had taken cover was attacked in Homs, he said: “No one knows if she killed by missile, or which missile, or where did the missile came from, or how. No one has any evidence.

”At the time of her death, Colvin – working with British photographer Paul Conroy, Syrian activist Wael al-Omar and French journalists Remi Ochlik and Edith Bouvier – had organised a temporary media centre in the besieged city of Homs in February 2012 after entering the country through Lebanon.

Amid bombardments, the group of journalists was reporting on civilian suffering caused by the Syrian civil war. Colvin and Ochlik were killed when the improvised centre was hit by a rocket blast on February 22, 2012. The others in the group were injured.

Colvin was an experienced and celebrated war correspondent for the London-based Sunday Times. She had reported on conflicts in the Middle East, the Balkans, Chechnya and Sri Lanka, where she lost her left eye in 2001 while on assignment.

Assad's statements come almost a week after Colvin's family filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the Syrian government in a U.S. federal court, claiming that Syrian military and intelligence officials followed the journalists' whereabouts and targeted their location in order to silence them.

IPI honoured Colvin in 2013 posthumously as a World Press Freedom Hero. According to IPI's Death Watch, Colvin was one of 39 individuals who lost their lives covering the Syrian civil war in 2012.

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