His Excellency President Bashar Al-Assad
President of Syria
28 February 2012
We are writing on behalf of the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) and the World Editors Forum, which represent 18,000 publications, 15,000 online sites and over 3,000 companies in more than 120 countries, to express our grave concern at the killing of two foreign correspondents and a citizen journalist in the city of Homs.
According to reports, 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 government opponents in the Baba Amr area of Homs. At least three other journalists, including British photographer Paul Conroy and French reporter Edith Bouvier, were injured.
Rami al-Sayed, who used the handle "syriapioneer" on YouTube and the live-streaming site Bambuser, was also killed in shelling on the same day. He had uploaded more than 200 videos documenting attacks by security forces on Homs and helped to inform the world about the scale of civilian injuries and deaths.
We are seriously concerned at reports that security forces targeted the press centre to prevent journalists from reporting their attacks on the city. At least seven journalists have reportedly been killed in your country since the start of the conflict last year.
We respectfully remind you that it is the duty of the state to provide an environment in which journalists are able to carry out their professional duties without fear of violence. The violence committed on journalists has created a climate of fear that promotes self-censorship. Furthermore, your government is in clear breach of U.N. Security Council resolution 1738, passed on 23 December 2006, which obliges states to ensure the safety of journalists in war zones.
We call on you to take all necessary steps to ensure that those responsible for killing Ms Colvin, Mr Ochlik and Mr al-Sayed are identified and held to account. We ask you to ensure that journalists are not targeted and that your government does everything possible to ensure their safety so that they can carry out their reporting duties without fear of attack.
We look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.
World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers
World Editors Forum
WAN-IFRA is the global organisation for the world’s newspapers and news publishers, with formal representative status at the United Nations, UNESCO and the Council of Europe. The organisation groups 18,000 publications, 15,000 online sites and over 3,000 companies in more than 120 countries.
His Excelleny Bashar Ja’afari
Permanent Representative of the Syrian Arab Republic to the United Nations
820 Second Avenue, 15th Floor
United States of America
Ambassador Lamia Chakkour
Ambassade de Syrie en France
20 rue Vaneau