Journalists among latest casualties in Syria strife

KD Suarez
Shelling on makeshift media center kills 2 foreign journalists, injures 3 others on Wednesday; Citizen journalist, whose live video streams from Homs provided first-hand account of violence, died in separate incident Tuesday

MANILA, Philippines – Three journalists, two foreign and one local, are the latest casualties of the violence in the Syrian city of Homs, as the resistance against President Bashar al-Assad continues.

American reporter Marie Colvin and French photojournalist Remi Ochlik died on Wednesday, February 22, while Rami al-Sayed, a local who broadcast a live video stream of the unrest, was killed in the Baba Amr neighborhood on Tuesday, February 21.

Colvin and Ochlik were reportedly in a house in the Baba Amr neighborhood, where journalists and opposition activists were staying, when a shell hit it on Wednesday morning.

Three other journalists in the building, photographers William Daniels and Paul Conroy, and French newspaper reporter Edith Bouvier, were hurt in the incident. Colvin was on assignment for The Sunday Times of the UK.

Jean-Pierre Perrin, a French journalist who was with Colvin in Homs the week before she died, said they were told the Syrian army was planning to target the said press centre, The Independent reported.

Troubled, saddened

Meanwhile, al-Sayed was reportedly killed while broadcasting the ongoing shelling of the city on Tuesday. Syrian activists reported he “suffered critical injuries” due to the heavy shelling.

Both British and French governments have asked for an official explanation from the Syrian government over the incident. The US, meanwhile, said they are “deeply troubled and saddened” by the incident.

Reuters reported the bombardment on the city, a focal point in the nationwide movement against Assad’s rule, has intensified. Dozens of buildings have been set afire or destroyed in the continued shelling.

At least 80 people have been killed on Wednesday in the continued bombardment by government troops on opposition-held areas in the city.

The nearly-3-week siege by government forces on the uprising against Assad has claimed thousands of lives in opposition hotspots throughout the nation.

Activists said the intensified siege leaves the city facing a humanitarian crisis, with all basic services crippled.

The Homs Revolutionary Council, an opposition activists’ group, said there is already a shortage of medicine, Al Jazeera reported. Food, water, and electricity are also in short supply.

Colvin, Ochlik, al-Sayed remembered

Tributes and remembrances have poured in for the slain journalists.

“What drew them together — in life and in death on Wednesday — was their common drive to reach some of the world’s most dangerous places and, once there, to bear witness,” The New York Times said of the two foreign reporters.

“This is who she was, absolutely who she was and what she believed in: cover the story, not just have pictures of it, but bring it to life in the deepest way you could,” Colvin’s mother Rosemarie said.

“She shone a spotlight on and gave a voice to those people who have no voice,” said veteran war correspondent Christiane Amanpour.

Her newspaper, The Sunday Times, has published her final dispatch from the besieged city.

TIME magazine, The Times, CNN, and The Wall Street Journal, among other publications, have put up retrospectives of the works of the award-winning French photographer, in particular his coverage of Haiti and Libya.

He recently won first prize in the 2012 World Press Photo competition for a photo of a rebel fighter in Libya.

Al-Sayed, meanwhile, was a citizen journalist who provided the world with an insider’s view of the conflict in Homs, through his livestream.

His graphic footages of the violence and bloodshed were constantly uploaded on the YouTube channel Syriapioneer.

Euronews said al-Sayed was the “eyes of Homs closed by shelling.”

Foreign reporters barred

The deaths of Colvin and Ochlik follows the demise of another foreign journalist in Syria, celebrated war correspondent Anthony Shadid of the Times.

Shadid died of an apparent asthma attack on February 16, as he and Times photographer Tyler Hicks were on assignment in Syria.

In January, meanwhile, Gilles Jacquier, a reporter for a French TV station, was killed in Homs during a goverment-organized trip to the city.

Foreign journalists have been banned from entering the country, but some have been able to get official permission to get in with numerous restrictions, or been able to sneak into the country with the aid of opposition activists. – Rappler.com

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