His Excellency President Bashar Al-Assad
President of Syria
31 August 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 murder of at least six journalists and citizen-journalists in August, and the disappearance of many more.
According to reports, Musab Mohamed Said al-Oudaallah, a reporter for the government newspaper Tishreen, was killed by pro-regime forces during a raid at his home in Damascus on 22 August. Mr al-Oudaallah was from the southern city of Deraa and had used a pseudonym to write online reports about the crackdown in his home town. On the same day, media activist Omar Hamed Al-Zamil was killed by shelling in the city of al-Hirak.
This follows the death of Mika Yamamoto, a reporter for the news agency Japan Press, in Aleppo on 20 August. She was killed when the anti-regime forces she was travelling with were fired on by what appeared to be government soldiers. Two reporters who were travelling with Ms Yamamoto at the time of her death – Palestinian reporter Bashar Fahmi and his Turkish cameraman Cuneyt Unal of the US-funded al-Hurra TV channel – have since disappeared. Rebels claim that they are being held by government forces.
Several other journalists have gone missing in recent weeks. In mid-August, American freelance journalist Austin Tice, who had covered the conflict in Syria for The Washington Post and other news organizations, went missing. Mr Tice had planned to leave Syria in mid-August but his family and colleagues have not heard from him for nearly two weeks. On 13 August, Ahmad Sattouf, Syrian correspondent for the Iranian satellite broadcaster Al Alam, was kidnapped in the city of Homs on his way home near Tadmour Square. Nothing has been heard of Mr Sattouf since his abduction.
At least three other journalists have been killed this month. On 11 August, Ali Abbas of state news agency SANA (Syrian Arab News Agency) was assassinated at his home in Damascus by “members of an armed terrorist group”. Mr Abbas had been the head of the Agency's International News Department. On 10 August, a news crew from pro-government TV channel Al Ikhbariya were kidnapped as they were covering clashes in Al Tal. Three of them were later released but cameraman Hatem Abu Yehya was reportedly killed. Finally, the Al Qaeda-linked Islamist Al Nusra Front claimed to have beheaded Mohamed al-Saeed, a presenter for Syrian state TV, on 4 August. He had been kidnapped on July 19.
We are seriously concerned at the horrific levels of violence facing journalists in Syria; five foreign journalists and about 30 Syrian journalists and citizen-journalists have been killed since the start of the conflict.
We respectfully remind you that it is the duty of the state to provide an environment in which journalists are able to work without fear of violence and ask you to do everything in your power to provide a secure environment for journalists carrying out their professional duties.
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 organization for the world’s newspapers and news publishers, with formal representative status at the United Nations, UNESCO and the Council of Europe. The organization 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