Watchdog says Syria most dangerous country for journalists

The New York-based group Committee to Protect Journalists cited the case of two kidnapped Swedish journalists.

Syrian Islamist fighters 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Syrian Islamist fighters 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said on Tuesday that the civil war in Syria posed the greatest danger for working reporters in conflict areas.
“Syria remains the most dangerous country in the world for journalists,” CPJ said. “At least 55 journalists have been killed covering the conflict since 2011, with local journalists comprising 90 percent of the fatalities.”
The New York-based group cited the case of two kidnapped Swedish journalists.
According to a statement issued on Tuesday by a spokeswoman for the Swedish Foreign Ministry, the two had been “taken away” on Saturday. It is unclear whether Syria’s regime or rebel forces kidnapped the men.
CPJ said there were at least 30 local and international journalists missing there.
“The number of journalists currently missing in Syria is nothing short of shocking,” said CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa coordinator, Sherif Mansour.
“We call on all players in the conflict to respect journalists’ status as civilians and ensure their safety.”
Many cases of missing journalists have not been publicized because of family wishes and the probability of damaging complex negotiations to secure their release.
According to the Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter, the two journalists were Magnus Falkehed and Niclas Hammarstrom. The Paris-based Falkehed worked for the paper as a freelance reporter, and Hammarstrom as a freelance photographer. The paper said they had not been on assignment for the daily when they disappeared.
The Paris-based Reporters Without Borders issued an extensive report earlier this month titled “Journalism in Syria, impossible job?” According to the report, “more than 110 news providers have been killed in the course of their work in Syria since March 2011 and more than 60 are currently detained, held hostage or missing.”
The difference in statistics between CPJ and Reporters Without Borders is typical in war reporting where civilian deaths and casualty numbers vary according to sources and methods used to track victims.
Reporters Without Borders is an international organization that seeks to expand freedom of information. It released its report to coincide with the six-month date of captivity for Edouard Elias and Didier François, two French TV journalists.
The report noted that Syrian president Bashar Assad’s forces targeted journalists at the outset of the revolt against his regime in 2011. While Assad continues his crackdown on journalists, rebel jihadi groups in northern Syria also aim to kidnap journalists.
Reporters Without Borders placed Assad on its annual list of “Predators of press freedom” in 2011. The Al-Qaida-linked al-Nusra group was added in 2013.
The advocacy organization now seeks to add the al-Qaida-linked ISIS to its list. ISIS controls large swaths of territory in northern Syria and goes to great lengths to target Western and independent journalists working in the country.
Writing for the Daily Beast website on Tuesday, Jamie Dettmer described how Syrian army forces attempted to kidnap him in the Kurdish-controlled region of northeast Syria.
CPJ said Rami al-Razzouk, a journalist for the local news outlet Radio ANA, was abducted by ISIS gunmen in October. In August, Mohamed Nour Matar, a local journalist, disappeared while reporting on a protest against ISIS in the city of Raqqa. He worked for the non-profit media organization Al-Shara, according to CPJ.Benjamin Weinthal reported for The Jerusalem Post on the Turkey-Syria border, where he entered the Syrian-side of the border town of Jarabulus in September. He is a fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.