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Middle east

Wounded journalists make video plea to leave Syria

Text by Marc DAOU

Latest update : 2012-02-24

French journalist Edith Bouvier and British photojournalist Paul Conroy made two video appeals for help on Thursday, asking to be taken to hospital in Lebanon where their injuries from a shelling attack Wednesday might be treated.

The Syrian government on Thursday washed its hands of any responsibility for the deaths of two journalists, Marie Colvin of the UK’s Sunday Times and French photographer Remi Ochlik.

Damascus said the pair had “entered the country at their own risk". But French President Nicolas Sarkozy accused the Syrian regime of “murder”. 

The announcement came the day after the building in the city of Homs where the two journalists were sheltering, which had become an unofficial press centre, was shelled relentlessly by Syrian government forces. At least three other journalists were injured, including Paul Conroy, Colvin's photojournalist colleague from The Sunday Times, and Edith Bouvier from French daily Le Figaro.

In a video posted on YouTube on Thursday, Bouvier said she was being well treated by the Syrian doctors looking after her. But she said she needed to leave the country urgently and called for the road out of Homs to be opened so that she could be taken to hospital in Lebanon, less than one hour’s drive away.

The sound of shelling can clearly be heard in the background.

Edith Bouvier talks from Homs (mixture of French, Arabic and English)

On Thursday the British foreign office confirmed that another injured photographer, UK national Paul Conroy, was “on his way out” of Homs for treatment.

Syrian government spokesman Adnane Mahmoud said that the governor of Homs had been instructed to open a route to allow the injured journalists out.

FRANCE 24’s special correspondent Karim Hakiki went undercover into Syria at the end of January to report on the deteriorating situation. He answers our questions on the challenges faced by journalists reporting from the country.


FRANCE 24: What can you tell us about Edith Bouvier’s situation?

Karim Hakiki: I just spoke to her father on the telephone. Obviously he is very upset. His daughter is critically injured, he said that she has just days to live if she doesn't get treatment quickly.

She is very badly injured. She has a multiple fracture to the femur and she has potentially serious internal bleeding. She needs urgent medical attention, but this is impossible right now because she is in Homs and there are no medical facilities there, nor is there the right equipment needed to operate on her.

Her father managed to speak with her yesterday, but he said she was barely conscious. He has been in touch with the French foreign ministry to see what they can do about getting her home alive.

Journalists are paying a heavy price to get reports out of Syria. As well as these recent deaths, another French journalist, Gilles Jacquier was killed by an artillery shell in Homs on January 11. Should journalists continue to report from such a dangerous place?

KH: Yes, what is going on must absolutely be covered by the media so that the world can be told what is going on and stop an outright massacre from taking place, even if journalists have to risk their lives to get the story out.

Obviously the nature of our work leads us to take risks, but I am convinced that in Syria we are being directly targeted by the regime. The house where Marie Colvin and Remi Ochlik were killed was certainly known to the Syrian security forces, who shelled it directly.

Throughout the Arab Spring you have reported from a number of countries that have reputations for disliking journalists. Is Syria different?

KH: When I was in the country I definitely had the impression that foreign journalists were being targeted. We are an overt threat to the regime’s authority. Every single journalist there is a witness that needs to be eliminated one way or the other. Each Syrian and foreign journalist is identified and systematically targeted.

In comparison, in Egypt just before the fall of Hosni Mubarak the security forces there tried to round up all the foreign reporters. Dozens of them were caught, beaten and intimidated. But we never felt the desire to eliminate us like we do in Syria.

Date created : 2012-02-23


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