Reporter’s Death Puts Focus on Difficulties of Covering a Secretive Syria
The refusal of the Syrian government, led by President Bashar al-Assad, to let foreign journalists move freely around the country has spurred some to sneak in through
Journalists from the BBC, CNN, ABC, NBC, Al Jazeera English and a small number of other news organizations have managed to enter Syria without visas, like Mr. Shadid and Mr. Hicks did, and bear witness to the lopsided battles between the Assad government and opposition fighters and citizens. Along the way, journalists have confronted a unique combination of challenges, including tenuous cellphone and Internet connections, the absence of a clear front line and the constant threat of being caught by security forces loyal to the Syrian government.
“I’ve never seen anything quite like this,” said Mark Whitaker, an executive vice president at CNN, which has two news crews working undercover in Syria this week. While other countries have restrictions on the press that are as severe as
“If you get stopped at a government checkpoint, it’s over not just for you, but for everybody in the car,” said Clarissa Ward, a CBS News correspondent, who followed a route similar to Mr. Shadid’s in and out of northern
Some journalists have been given permission to enter
Bill Neely, an international editor for ITV News in Britain who flew out of Damascus on Friday, described being in a government “security bubble” during a trip to Dara’a, where the uprising was born. When “I escaped from the bubble to talk to people,” Mr. Neely said, “it was clear they were afraid to speak.”
Mr. Shadid felt compelled to enter Syria with the help of smugglers for the same reasons that other journalists cited in interviews this week: a sense that the widespread killing and suffering there needs to be documented.
“It’s just nuts. I feel like no one there is telling the truth now,” Mr. Shadid wrote in an e-mail to editors at The Times as they weighed whether he should sneak back into the country. “We have to get the details.”
The first time he did so, in July of last year, he reported on antigovernment sentiments and sectarian tensions in the restive city of Homs. “Anthony was reporting from
Mr. Williams said that during the period of upheaval in the Middle East that began in
When the BBC correspondent Paul Wood and his cameraman, Fred Scott, snuck into Syria from Turkey this month, Mr. Williams said that he insisted they travel with a contractor who could act as a paramedic “in case something went wrong.” This was prompted by the death of Tim Hetherington, a photographer and filmmaker, in
Some other news agencies have sent security contractors into
Mr. Shadid and Mr. Hicks elected to travel without a security consultant. The Times sometimes uses such consultants, but weighs each situation individually.
Representatives for some news agencies, including The Associated Press and Reuters, declined to comment on the methods used by their staff members to cover
The reporting dangers have had a suppressing effect on
“I would hate to think that the Assad regime has been successful in their very cynical calculation that keeping journalists out of the country will mean that the world forgets about the story,” Ms. Ward of CBS News said.
CNN executives said they had tried to put a spotlight on the strife in
He and others asserted that professional video and reporting were essential even in an age of social media, when graphic videos of the violence in
Viewer surveys by the BBC showed a below-average amount of interest in the
At least four other journalists have died in
Each death was accompanied by claims that Syrian security forces were at fault, but those claims were nearly impossible to confirm because of the dearth of independent reporting in the country.
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Correction: February 18, 2012
An earlier version of this article misidentified the Committee to Protect Journalists. It is not the Committee to Project Journalists.
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"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs