RSF seeks protection for journalists in East Aleppo

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) voices deep concern about the worsening situation in Aleppo and urges all parties to the conflict to ensure that both professional and non-professional journalists can leave the city along with other civilians, if they wish, or stay without fear of being the targets of reprisals because of their journalistic work.

After a new ceasefire was agreed upon the night of 14 December to allow civilians and fighters to be evacuated to Idlib, RSF draws the international community’s attention to the uncertain fate of the journalists on the ground. According to RSF’s sources, there are several dozen journalists, citizen-journalists and media contributors in East Aleppo.

We call on the Syrian government and all parties to the conflict to do everything possible to protect journalists and media contributors in Syria and, in particular, both those who are staying in East Aleppo and those who want to leave,” said Alexandra El Khazen, the head of RSF’s Middle East desk.

Syria is the world’s most dangerous country for both professional and non-professional journalists. A total of 62 journalists and 152 citizen journalists and media contributors have been killed in Syria since 2011. We remind all parties that they obliged to protect journalists and other civilians under the Geneva Conventions and the first additional protocol.”

RSF and 18 other NGOs that defend press freedom and support the media issued a joint appeal on 13 December to all parties to the conflict to ensure that they safeguard the lives of journalists (both professional and non-professional) along with other civilians, whether they decide to leave East Aleppo or stay.

We are undergoing a tragic situation and I call on human rights organizations to intervene as quickly as possible to protect those who remain in the besieged areas of East Aleppo,” said Salah Al-Ashkar, a freelance citizen journalist from Aleppo who is very active on social networks.

Other journalists and citizen journalists have spoken out on social networks in recent weeks. They include Omar Al-Arab, a citizen journalist reporting for the local weekly Al-Hibr, who has been covering the situation in East Aleppo in videos posted on Facebook.

Zouhir Al-Shimale, a freelance citizen journalist who has been posting reports on social networks and giving interviews, talked to RSF yesterday about the difficulties of living in the besieged areas of Aleppo and covering what is happening there. Disappointed by the failure to respect the previous day’s ceasefire and the resumption of bombardment in the morning, he said he hoped civilians would be able to leave as soon as possible without being exposed to the risk of atrocities against them.

Agence France-Presse’s East Aleppo correspondent, Karam Al-Masri, was awarded the Varenne Foundation’s Grand Prize in the photojournalism category yesterday for his video reportage of a man who chose to remain Aleppo to look after his collection of classic automobiles.

Syria is ranked 177th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2016 World Press Freedom Index.

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Updated on 16.12.2016