Voices in Danger: Syria is the most dangerous country in the world for journalists

In the last 24 months foreign reporters have come under unprecedented attack

Share

The gruesome beheading of American journalist James Foley by Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (Isis), a rebel group once affiliated with Al-Qaeda, has sent shockwaves through the international community.

The fate of Steven Joel Sotloff, who is being held captive by ISIS along with other journalists held by related militant groups, also hangs in the balance. ISIS's latest appalling act of horror conveys another grim message of danger to all journalists in the region.

Foley was kidnapped in November 2012 when his car was stopped at gunpoint by Isis militants in a town near Taftanaz in the Idlib province of Syria. He had left an internet cafe earlier that day. A year after his capture, Foley's mother went on air to publicly plead for her son's release, but to no avail. He was in captivity for over 600 days before his untimely death.

“The barbaric murder of journalist James Foley, kidnapped in Syria and held almost two years, sickens all decent people. Foley went to Syria to show the plight of the Syrian people, to bear witness to their fight, and in so doing to fight for press freedom,” said Sandra Mims Rowe, the Chairman of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

Over the last 24 months journalists in Syria and Iraq have been killed by suicide bombings, kidnapped at gunpoint, and attacked in newsrooms by Isis and related terrorist groups. As Isis and their henchmen sweep through Iraq and Syria, the group attacks what remains of local media channels. CPJ has declared Syria “the most dangerous country in the world for journalists.” Iraq is close behind.

In June 2014, Al-Sharqiya’s correspondent in Diyala province of Iraq, Halmi Kamal, was kidnapped and held by armed terrorists for several hours. In Mosul, Isis fighters seized control of Al-Mosuliya TV, Sama Al-Mosul and Al-Ghad and have closed down a number of other local TV stations. In Tikrit, gunmen staged a suicide attack in the offices of Salaheddin TV killing five journalists in December 2013. ISIS and other Sunni militant groups are believed to be responsible for the majority of at least 10 journalists killed last year in Iraq, according to CPJ research.

 

NBC correspondent Richard Engel and his crew were held captive in the northern region of Syria for several days in December 2012. Shortly after their release, an unidentified Syrian terrorist group released a video entitled “Journalists dogs in the trap”. The footage shows Engel, three others members of the NBC production team and a journalist working for CNN and ABC being held captive. The five sit shoulder to shoulder on the floor in what appears to be a one-room village hut.

The increased danger of reporting on the Syrian conflict two years ago lead many journalists to tell CPJ that entering Syria was too risky. But when freelance journalists Jonathan Alpeyrie and Matthew Schrier returned home safely in the summer of 2013, after months of detention in rebel hands, it offered hope. International journalists began re-entering the territories once Isis withdrew from some key positions in northern Syria, according the CPJ research.

More than 80 journalists have been kidnapped in Syria, some of which go unpublicised. CPJ estimates that approximately 20 journalists, both local and international, are currently missing in Syria. Many of them are believed to be held by Isis.

READ MORE:
Voices in Danger: The journalists facing death if they return to Russia  

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Design, Marketing and Media Manager

£27000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: HR Assistant

£17447 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This organisation is a leading centre fo...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Case Handler

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Trainee Case Handler is requi...

Recruitment Genius: Junior Sales Apprentice

£15000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Voices in Danger: How can we prevent journalists from being sexually assaulted in conflict zones?

Heather Blake
 

If I were Prime Minister: I would ramp up Britain's spending on science

Paul Nurse
Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence