Syrian Media Activists and Journalists Remain Steadfast

Posted by Uzra Zeya
May 17, 2014
Journalists and Photographers Board a Transport to the Jordan-Syria Border Crossing

In Syria, the conflict has entered into its fourth year.  Since March 2011, Bashar al-Asad has refused to heed the call of the Syrian people to step aside.  He has directed a war against his own people, destabilized the region, and created a humanitarian catastrophe.

Syrian journalists and media activists are under constant threat on multiple fronts. The Asad regime has tortured and killed scores of journalists and continues to target them for detention, monitors and censors online activity, and blocks internet access.  Non-state actors, including violent extremists, are also attempting to silence journalists through kidnapping, harassment, and killings.

Yet in the face of egregious abuses and violence, courageous Syrians continue their pursuit of justice and fundamental freedoms.  Building on the momentum of UNESCO’s World Press Freedom Day activities, last week U.S. Embassy Paris organized an event at which I had the privilege of meeting with a group of Syrian journalists and media activists who continue to provide the invaluable service of getting information in and out of Syria.  Despite the tremendous risk, these journalists and activists communicate regularly with independent media and civil society networks, so the world can hear what's happening inside Syria.

These Syrian journalists and activists are keen to focus the world’s attention on the many cases of detention, kidnapping, and killing of Syrian journalists, human rights advocates and media activists.  We discussed the case of the on-going detention of staff from the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression held by the regime, as well as the kidnapping of human rights activist, Razan Zaitouneh.  As with so many of my meetings with Syrian civil society, every participant has a close colleague, friend, or relative who has risked and sometimes lost their life to collect the facts on the ground in Syria.  Their brave determination and steadfast commitment in the face of such adversity sets an inspiring example for journalists around the world.

Our Free the Press campaign has been highlighting the perils and problems facing journalists from every region around the world.  The United States is committed to promoting freedom of expression, freedom of the press, and journalist safety and security globally.  The State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor funds 86 media programs, including programs that focus on investigative and conflict sensitivity reporting, civic engagement by youth through media, increasing diversity in the media sector, gender-sensitive media programming, and access to independent media in local languages.  In addition, DRL’s SAFE Initiative provides state-of-the-art trainings to journalists on physical and digital security and psychosocial care through centers in San Salvador, El Salvador; Tbilisi, Georgia; and Nairobi, Kenya. 

About the Author: Uzra Zeya serves as the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL) at the U.S. Department of State.

Visit, follow @State_DRL on Twitter, and like the DRL Bureau on Facebook to learn more about U.S. government engagement on international human rights.



Eric J.
New Mexico, USA
May 21, 2014

When one sees the result of a policy that states "there is no military solution" having become a state of total war with out apparent end, diplomacy completely exhausted, millions made homeless, hundreds of thousands dead ( so many the UN stopped counting), starvation as a means to military conquest being waged on the population, chemical and heavy weaponry , bombs , missiles, and morters used on a government's own population; An Administration in denial of the genocide taking place by Assad's hand, supported by Russian arms, and Iranian terrorist proxi; The stated policy goal of not making the situation worse by military intervention doesn't wash any longer, and the results of inaction should have been anticipated, or at least assessed before Hillary Clinton made the case for a diplomatic solution being the only path forward in Syria.

I wouldn't be singing the praises of ridding Syria of chemical weapons via diplomacy if it means the diplomacy has allowed a genocidal dictator to proceed unfettered in the slaughter of a population. And Assad is doing just that.

Folks think arming the moderate oposition is the answer, but they too would only sluff off responsibility to stand on principal to others, to protect themselves, rather than accept the notion that what America will put up with does not include genocide, and we should and can do whatever it takes to bring a screeching halt to it, and target the perpitraitors.

Yet today there is still some disconnect in the hope against hope that somehow folks can "change Assad's calculus", via sanction and other coercive diplomatic means, while we try to stem the hemoraging and suffering among Syrian society now displaced.

I can't say it was a mistake to exhaust the diplomatic efforts, one has to try and resolve conflict in a civilized manner. But here again I gotta come back to a truism don't negotiate with terrorists, and Assad's been on the state sponsor's list for how many years?

As long as I've been writing my thoughts and analysis down on this blog, I've taken great pains and effort to delve into the minds of dictators and madmen, precicely because that is the Dept of State's single biggest set of blinders it wears. Even the spokespeople won't go there...(chuckle), nor offer a mind reading....

But over the years dictators have pretty well helped prove my assesments about them to be sound, and diabolicly accurate.

So the question remains if my words make too much sense to ignore, but only a change in policy will give me a clue.

EJ 5/21/2014


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