i Editor's Letter: Dispatches from the frontline


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The Independent Online


While some have been basking in the glow of London 2012, and others simply basking on a sun lounger somewhere, life at its very worst has been unfurling daily, half-hidden from our eyes, as the brutal civil war rages across Syria, most notably of late in Aleppo, the country's second city.

I say half-hidden, in part because our attention has been diverted elsewhere by matters more trivial, if closer to home, but largely because it has proven extremely difficult to get much verifiable first-hand reporting out of Syria (especially when compared with Egypt or Libya last year).

The reasons for this are many; ranging from restrictions on reporters to the very clear danger those that try to bypass these restrictions put themselves in. Both as an industry and as a reading public, we are perhaps more aware of these dangers than usual because of the death earlier this year in Homs of the world-renowned Sunday Times correspondent Marie Colvin in an attack during which the noted war photographer, Remi Ochlik, was also killed. Only last weekend two more Syrian journalists were killed in Damascus.

For some time during the past few weeks, The Independent and i's own defence correspondent, Kim Sengupta, was the only foreign journalist in Aleppo – following the likes of the BBC's Ian Pannell. He has filed extraordinary reports from the streets of the stricken city as battle has raged. Our foreign editor, Alistair Dawber, has been in constant touch with Kim, working to balance the desire to get the news out with the need to ensure Kim's personal safety.

Kim is a hugely experienced correspondent, having filed from Libya, Egypt, Afghanistan, Iraq, the Balkans and many other danger zones. He is also lucky in that he can not only get in but, with the aid of trusted "fixers", get out again.

He is currently back in the UK, and is taking part in a live webchat at independent.co.uk today at 12.30. If you have questions for Kim please tweet them in advance with the hashtag #indysyria or go to the site live. If you want to read his recent dispatches, you will find them on the site.