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That is close to the total number of journalists (88) who perished last year covering armed conflicts, revolutions and other events across the world, including the Arab Spring countries, the deadliest of which was Syria.
A genre of citizen-journalists had emerged in Syria after the uprising began and the repressive regime started relentlessly targeting peaceful protesters and, later, began using military force against civilians. These citizen-journalists were using social media to tell their stories.
“Anyone using any kind of social media to tell the story of what’s happening inside Syria is a citizen-journalist,” said Ayman Bardawil, programmes manager of DCMF. “We are continuously monitoring the situation of citizen-journalists in Syria.”
He told The Peninsula yesterday: “Our website team is monitoring casualties among citizen-journalists there.”
The DCMF is, additionally, coordinating with advocates of media freedom and is in touch with various United Nations organisations as also Syrian opposition leaders on the issue. “Their response is positive…The situation in Syria is critical.”
The DCMF gets requests from citizen-journalists in Syria for financial assistance for medical treatment in cases of injuries and provides it readily so that the beneficiaries recover fast and get back to work. “This kind of crucial succour is provided both inside and outside Syria,” said Bardawil.
“We don’t have representatives in Syria and instead boast a network of friends. Divulging details can, obviously, be dangerous.”
Gaza and Pakistan are among the almost perennially dangerous territories for journalists to do their work. In Gaza, two scribes were killed and several were left injured during the recent conflict with Israel.
The DCMF has lined up at least three workshops on safety of journalists in Gaza in the coming days. “We are going to hold training sessions on safety so journalists are better prepared when they cover war zones,” said Bardawil.
In Pakistan, the Centre, in association with a local organisation, conducted a number of workshops for journalists that partly focused on safety.
“We will continue with our training programme in Pakistan and plan to hold six more workshops,” Bardawil said.
Prominent Qatari journalist Abdullah Al Attbah said that since journalists were not protected in Syria, he didn’t want to venture there. “The problem is related to the double standards of the West. They don’t want to end violence in Syria, while they are taking action in Mali”.
Attbah told this newspaper yesterday: Journalists must be defended, respected and spared like medical and aid workers are. The international community must ensure this.”
Aside from the protective gear that can be given to scribes covering war zones or revolutions, what is more important is that they should enjoy legal protection.
“Qatar’s existing media law is old and archaic, yet no incident has so far been reported that involved harassment of journalists,” he said.
A new media law is waiting to be implemented here and it would accord journalists the status of public servants in the case of attack or assault.
“That would protect us scribes immensely against any assault or attack as also encourage fellow Qatari citizens to join journalism in increasing numbers,” he said.