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Wednesday, February 22, 2012
Journalists face many hazards in Middle East
The day after Pulitzer Prize Winning Journalist Anthony Shadid was buried by family in Beirut, Lebanon, two journalists were killed in fighting in the besieged city of Homs in Syria.
Shadid was leaving Syria where he had entered unofficially on horseback with a guide to avoid the restrictions imposed by the Syrian dictatorship of President Bashar al-Assad when he had an asthma attack that turned critical. He died. Shadid knew that his assignment was dangerous and yet he continued to pursue the truth in coverage of the Syrian civil war.
War is hell. But before anyone could even pause to honor Shadid's commitment to the dangerous profession of pursuing truth in the Middle East and among the region's Arab World dictatorships, news came that two more journalists had died, this time as a result of Syrian military shelling of civilian homes in Homs.
American freelance journalist Marie Colvin and freelance French photographer Remi Ochlik were killed in the Syrian military bombardment of the homes. They were accompanied by a dozen other journalists who all had sneaked into Syria to cover the growing civil war by civilians to oust their dictator Bashar al-Assad. And it is even believed the killings may have been intentional as everyone knew the home that was hit by the shelling was being used by journalists.
Syria's dictatorship has prohibited journalists from entering Syria and covering the conflict as a part of an official campaign to silence the pro-Democracy protesters. Some were being allowed in but only accompanied by official Syrian government minders. But those journalists who have risked their lives to bring the accurate story out of the oppressive Syrian country would not be silenced.
The National American Arab Journalists Association, which represents more than 250 American Arab journalists throughout the United States, issued condemnations of the killings of Colvin and Ochlik. NAAJA issued a statement of condolences on the news of the death of Shadid. NAAJA has condemned the Syrian assault against civilians and the targeting of journalists which is intended by the Assad dictatorship to prevent accurate news reporting.
Some American Arab media are working for the Syrian Government. These media having been working overtime to spin the news insisting that it is the protesters themselves who are murdering the many women and children who have been killed. More than 7,000 civilians have been murdered so far in the intentional assault that is targeting civilians to "punish" the public for daring to challenge the tyranny of the minority-run Syrian dictatorship.
Journalists in the Middle East are threatened all the time. It doesn't just happen in the Arab countries. It happens in Israel where many Palestinian journalists are forbidden and denied entry to cover events in Israel. Much of the coverage of Israel is handled by Israelis and journalists with a clear personal bias towards events and the news.
The only real tribute to Colvin and Ochlik and to Shadid who risked his life, too, though he died of a health-driven illness, is to recognize that journalism is a fundamental component of freedom. Without journalists and the ability of professional writers to witness and record events, freedom of human beings is jeopardized and threatened.
We salute the journalists who have made the ultimate sacrifice to defend truth. Truth is Democracy and Democracy is freedom. One day soon, no doubt, the people of Syria will experience true freedom with the ouster of the Assad dictatorship.
One day soon Palestinians living under Israel's brutal occupation will also experience freedom.
Journalism has its faults, biases and traitors to the cause of accuracy and truth. But Freedom relies on the clarity of a human being's eye to witness and record events without prejudice and with accuracy regardless of personal feelings or partisan political beliefs.