Russia Condemns Attacks on Journalists in Syria

Russia has strongly condemned attacks on journalists in Syria and has called on international organizations and countries that have influence on Syrian rebels to take steps to ensure the security of media representatives working in the conflict-hit country.

“Moscow treats with growing concern the information that we have received from Damascus about representatives of Syrian and international media being attacked by illegal armed groups with growing frequency,” Deputy Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in a statement on Tuesday.

The spokeswoman cited the kidnapping of four employees of Syria’s pro-government al-Ikhbariya television channel on August 10 and reports about the killing of a senior journalist of the state-run Syrian Sana news agency on August 11 as the most recent examples of such attacks.

The four al-Ikhbariya employees were kidnapped on Friday while on assignment in a Damascus suburb, which has seen clashes between government troops and rebels fighting to oust President Bashar al-Assad.

Al- Ikhbariya said on Monday its cameraman Hatem Abu Yahia, who was among its three kidnapped employees, is believed to have been killed.

A video footage posted on the internet on Monday showed his three surviving colleagues who said they were being held by rebel forces. A man who identified himself as a rebel spokesperson says in the video that the cameraman has been killed in government shelling. It was impossible to independently verify the video.

“We condemn in the most decisive way terrorist attacks on journalists who ensure the implementation of fundamental democratic rights of citizens to receive objective information, as well as the freedom of speech and opinion,” the Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said.

International and regional organizations, as well as countries that have influence on the Syrian opposition “cannot stand on the sidelines and fail to react” to such attacks, she added.

The Syrian government said on Saturday that an “armed terrorist group” had assassinated Sana journalist Ali Abbas at his residence in Jdaidet Artouz, to the southwest of Damascus.

Earlier this month, al-Nusra Front, a little-known Islamist group that has claimed responsibility for several suicide attacks in Syria, said it had killed a prominent Syrian TV host, Mohammad al-Said, who has been kidnapped in Jdaidet Artouz by unknown gunmen in late July.

In June, seven Al-Ikhbariya employees were killed in an attack by an armed group on the TV channel’s headquarters on the outskirts of Damascus.

In February, veteran U.S. war correspondent Marie Colvin, who had been working for The Sunday Times of London, and a young French photographer, Remi Ochlik, were killed as Syrian security forces shelled the rebel city of Homs.

Some 17,000 have been killed in Syria since the beginning of the anti-Assad uprising in March 2011, according to UN estimates.


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