Reporters Without Borders calls on the foreign media to take greater care to protect the Syrian journalists who work for them and to protect their other sources in Syria. Fixers, interpreters, drivers, interviewees and all others in Syria who provide them with information take great risks to do so. This should be kept in mind.
“We know of dozens of Syrians who have been arrested and tortured after giving interviews to foreign media about the repression in their country,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Others have been arrested for working for foreign journalists in Syria or abroad. The Syrian security agencies are making unprecedented efforts to identify those who help foreign reporters or talk to them. International media must use the utmost prudence in their contacts with Syrians. Whenever Syrians give an interview about the situation in their country, they and their families are exposed to serious reprisals.
“While the media must continue to provide coverage of the situation in Syria that is as detailed and complete as possible, it is also crucial to carefully evaluate the risks taken by those who supply this information. The duty to provide coverage should not be satisfied at the expense of the sources’ safety.”
A Syrian fixer recently complained to Reporters Without Borders about reckless foreign reporters who “seek their 15 minutes of fame by getting themselves arrested” without weighing the consequences for the people who have helped them or accompanied them.
If a foreign reporter is arrested in Syria, he faces a few days in detention and then deportation. But Syrians pay a much higher price for their involvement. Reporters Without Borders is aware of dozens of cases of people whose current whereabouts is unknown after they worked for a foreign journalist or just answered a foreign media’s questions.
Representatives of the exile Syrian National Council and local journalists asked Reporters Without Borders to make it clear to foreign journalists that they should stop visiting Syria until the situation has evolved. “They should leave the country ASAP and stay out,” one local journalist said.
“This is not our message,” Reporters Without Borders added. “But we do urge all journalists to take the utmost care, especially as many of them do not know the country and are unaware of the methods used by the mukhabarat (intelligence services) to identify those who cooperate with foreign media.”