Syria: Journalists' association and professional groups launch campaign for media workers' safety

Four Syrian journalists’ professional groups, including IFJ affiliate, the Syrian Journalists Association (SJA) launched a campaign on January 25 to protest against security chaos in northern Syria, where crimes against journalists are on the rise. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) stands in solidarity with Syrian media workers and supports the association's call on the authorities to tackle journalists' insecurity.

Credit: OMAR HAJ KADOUR / AFP

The ‘Who is to blame?’ campaign was launched as a response to increasing insecurity facing journalists' in regions in the north of the country under the control of Syrian armed groups backed by the Turkish army, where the authorities have failed to establish security and where bombings, explosions, and arbitrary arrests are reported daily.

Journalists were targeted when the regime was in control, and then when the Islamic State (IS) took over the region. Today, journalists face many risks, the least of which is detention by the factions, if the journalist speaks out against them", a media worker told local media.

The campaign, which has a strong presence on Facebook, has seen several activists edit their profile picture by adding ‘Who is to blame?’ with an image of broken glass pierced by a bullet.

The move was agreed at a meeting of the newly-established ‘Syrian Media Council’. Alongside SJA, the Syrian Media Council was founded on 29 November by the Journalists Association of Eastern Ghouta, the Aleppo and Countryside Media Union, and the Syrian Journalists Club. The launch was announced on SJA’s Facebook profile.

In a statement, the organizations said that “following the challenges and changes facing the Syrian media sector, there is a necessity to organize this sector, to protect journalists, defend their rights and freedoms, provide support and care for them, and empower them to help improve their professional level”.

The campaign was triggered by the murder attempt of Syria TV journalist Bahaa Al-Halabi, who was shot by two unidentified men wielding machine guns on 8 January in the city of Al-Bab, located in Aleppo, while he was leaving home. Despite bullet wounds in his hands, shoulders and legs, Al-Halabi survived the attack.

After leaving hospital a few days later, he told the media that the region’s security is “very bad” and that there is no “real intention” to control it.

IFJ General Secretary, Anthony Bellanger, said: “We congratulate our affiliate, the SJA. This campaign is necessary to help stop the violence against our colleagues. Right now, Syria is the world’s fourth most deadly country for journalists in the world. We call for the protection of journalists”.

At the end of 2020, Syria ranked fourth for the most killed journalists in the world.