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709 Syrian journalists killed in ten years: monitor

(SNHR)- The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) has issued its annual report the most notable violations against media workers in Syria for World Press Freedom Day, noting that 709 journalists and media workers have been killed since March 2011, including 52 due to torture.
 
The 20-page report notes that many Syrian activists have taken it upon themselves to try to compensate for the regime’s banning of Arab and international media in Syria, to report news and the reality of events taking place, in light of the one party and one president dominating every aspect of public and private media and journalism work, with the regime further increasing its already brutal repression to become even more repressive since the outbreak of the popular uprising for democracy in Syria in March 2011, particularly targeting media workers and photographers, as well as expelling and banning all independent media. The report adds that these journalists’ and photojournalists’ camera lenses and news reports have also contributed massively to the process of monitoring, recording and documenting human rights violations, with journalists and citizen journalists often considered to be either the first to catalogue the event, being eyewitnesses to what happened in some cases, and survivors of bombing at other times, or often falling into two or all three of these categories simultaneously. Based on these pivotal roles, the journalists and citizen journalists have been subjected to numerous violations.
 
This report outlines the record of the most notable violations against journalists and media workers in Syria from March 2011 to May 2021, and highlights the most notable violations documented by SNHR in the past year (from May 2020 to May 2021), as well as including the most notable violations that occurred during the same period.
 
The report notes that the violations against journalists, citizen journalists and media workers are continuing for the tenth consecutive year, with the practices of the parties to the conflict and the controlling forces against the media sector workers in the past year not differing from previous years, although there were fewer such incidents.
 
The report documents the deaths of 709 journalists and media workers at the hands of the parties to the conflict and the controlling forces in Syria between March 2011 and May 2021, including seven children and six women (adult female), as well as nine foreign journalists, and 52 others who died as a result of torture, with the Syrian regime being responsible for the deaths of 552 journalists and media workers, including five children, one woman, five foreign journalists, and 47 other citizen journalists due to torture in detention centers, while Russian forces were responsible for the deaths of 23 journalists and media workers, and ISIS killed 64, including one child, two women, three foreign journalists, and three under torture. Hay’at Tahrir al Sham also killed eight, including two who died due to torture.

The report further reveals that the Armed Opposition/ Syrian National Army were responsible for the deaths of 25 journalists and media workers, including one child and three women, while Syrian Democratic Forces killed four journalists and media workers, the US-led Coalition forces killed one journalist/ media worker, and 32 were documented as being killed by other parties, including one foreign journalist.
 
The report provides charts that show the distribution of the death toll of journalists and media workers by the perpetrator party, by year and across Syria’s governorates since 2011; analysis of the data shows that the Syrian regime and its Russian ally are responsible for approximately 82% of the death toll of journalists and media workers, with 2013 being the bloodiest year for journalists and media workers (25% of the total death toll), followed by 2012 and 2014, while Aleppo governorate saw the largest death toll among journalists and media workers, approximately 22%, followed by Daraa governorate, then Damascus Suburbs governorate.
The report records that at least 1,563 journalists and media workers have been injured to varying degrees at the hands of the parties to the conflict and the controlling forces in Syria since March 2011.
 
In terms of arbitrary arrests/ enforced disappearances, the report documents at least 1,211 cases of arrests and kidnappings of journalists and media workers at the hands of the parties to the conflict and the controlling forces in Syria since March 2011, of whom at least 432, including three women and 17 foreign journalists, are still detained or forcibly disappeared in detention centers as of May 2021. Of these, 357 journalists and media workers, including two women and four foreign journalists are still detained or forcibly disappeared by Syrian regime forces, while another eight are detained or forcibly disappeared by Hay’at Tahrir al Sham, 12 by the Armed Opposition/ Syrian National Army, and seven by Syrian Democratic Forces. The report adds that 48 journalists and media workers, including one woman and eight foreign journalists, who were arrested and subsequently forcibly disappeared by ISIS are still unaccounted for.
 
The report provides charts that show the distribution of the record of journalists and media workers who are still detained or forcibly disappeared at the hands of the parties to the conflict and the controlling forces across Syria’s governorates; the data analysis shows that the largest proportion of journalists and media workers who are still detained or forcibly disappeared were originally arrested in Aleppo governorate (approximately 14%), followed by Deir Ez-Zour governorate (approximately 12%), then Damascus (approximately 10%).
As the report reveals, at least 42 cases of arrests and kidnappings of journalists and media workers have been documented at the hands of the parties to the conflict and the controlling forces in Syria between May 2020 and May 2021.
 
The report notes the absence of any independent media and the regime security services’ control of all state media, which have been harnessed to promote sham presidential elections in which Bashar al Assad is running for president, despite his being the figure who led the state throughout the past two decades until it reached its current devastated condition in all human rights, legal, political and economic fields. The report adds that the Syrian regime has introduced laws that violate the most basic principles of human rights and which aim to suppress freedom of opinion and expression.
 
The report concludes, based on the events documented by SNHR documented throughout this period, that all the parties to the conflict and the controlling forces have violated many of the rules and laws of international human rights law in the areas they control, especially those related to freedom of opinion and expression, such as Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and Article 19(2) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
 
These parties have also violated many rules and articles of international humanitarian law, foremost among which is Rule 34 of customary law, which requires that civilian journalists engaged in professional missions in areas of armed conflict must be respected and protected as long as they are not taking a direct part in hostilities.
 
The report recommends that all the parties to the conflict/ controlling forces should immediately release journalists and media workers who have been arbitrarily detained, reveal the fate of the forcibly disappeared, allow access to all media outlets and cease to proscribe the work of journalists according to the extent of their loyalty to the controlling party, repeal all ‘security laws’ which absolutely suppress and deny freedom of opinion and expression, especially those issued by the Syrian regime, and should not use media as organs to serve the controlling forces and to justify their violations or falsify the truth.

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