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Syria: Attack on TV staff ‘worst massacre against journalism’ + Related Articles

Thursday, June 28, 2012

By RT
Syrian Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi put the responsibility for killing of seven TV staffers on the EU, Arab and International organizations. He called it “the worst massacre against journalism and the freedom of media.”
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­Seven journalists and workers in the Syrian al-Ikhbaryia Satellite Channel were killed on Wednesday morning in an attack by an armed group targeting the headquarters of al-Ikhbaryia. The assault occurred some 20 kilometres south of the capital Damascus.
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They planted explosive devices at the headquarters of al-Ikhbaryia following their ransacking, and destroying the Satellite Channel studios, including the newsroom.

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An employee at the station told Associated Press that several people were wounded in the attack and guards were kidnapped. He did not give his name for fear of repercussions, but said the gunmen drove him about 200 meters away, and then he heard the explosion of the station being destroyed.
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A few hours after the attack, the station was still able to broadcast.
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“This massacre won’t go unpunished and the broadcast of the Syrian al-Ikhbaryia Satellite will not stop and we hold the EU and Arab and International organizations responsible for this massacre,” Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) quotes Information Minister al-Zoubi as saying.“Those who committed this crime had carried out the decision of the Arab League Council to silence the voice of Syria.”

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Minister al-Zoubi said that this attack crowns the EU decision in Luxembourg to impose sanctions on Syrian TV and Radio in addition to the “continued campaigns of provocation against Syria.”
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Sara Marusek, a researcher from Syracuse University in Beirut, believes that the attack benefits the rebels. She echoed al-Zoubi by saying that Western sanctions against Syrian media outlets had virtually sanctioned this act of terror.

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“I cannot say if they’ve done it or not but this is definitely in their [rebels’] interests. And, really, it’s quite ironic that this station gets targeted right after the EU places sanctions on the station,” she told RT. “Sanctioning these different media outlets – and the US actually sanctions Syrian state television – it almost gives legitimacy for the rebels to attack these places and to commit these atrocious terrorist attacks against innocent people.”

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She also doubted that there will be any “outcry [in the West] that we see when Western journalists get caught in crossfire.”

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The minister’s comments on the assault come as Syria’s President Bashar Assad acknowledged that his country is now in a state of war.

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“We live in a real state of war from all angles,” he said. “When we are in a war, all policies and all sides and all sectors need to be directed at winning this war.”

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He was speaking on Tuesday at the first cabinet meeting of the newly sworn-in government. President Assad ordered the cabinet to direct all their efforts to beating the armed opposition.

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(VIDEO, PHOTOS)

RT.

June 28, 2012.

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Related  Article: From Newyork Times

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In Brazen TV Raid, Syria and Rebels Differ on Attackers

.By ROD NORDLAND and ALAN COWELL

BEIRUT, Lebanon — Gunmen stormed a pro-government television station in a suburb near Damascus early Wednesday, killed seven employees and destroyed its studios with explosives, Syrian officials said, calling the assault a brazen example of atrocities committed by the armed opposition to President Bashar al-Assad.

The attack coincided with a new United Nations report on human rights violations in Syria that mostly castigated the Syrian government.

Rebels disputed the official account of the attack, saying the killers were defectors from Syria’s elite Republican Guard, considered the most loyal core of defenders of Mr. Assad’s inner circle. If the rebel version is confirmed, the attack would constitute a significant breach of security for those close to Mr. Assad, who said on Tuesday that Syria was now in “a state of war.”

The attackers struck against the backdrop of increasingly bold rebel assaults in the Damascus area and an accelerated pace of high-level defections from Mr. Assad’s military. Mr. Assad is also dealing with hostility from Turkey over Syria’s downing of a Turkish military jet last week.

In a new twist possibly aimed at appeasing the Turks, Syria’s information minister, Omran al-Zoubi, was quoted as telling a private Turkish broadcaster on Wednesday that Syrian antiaircraft gunners might have mistaken the Turkish plane for an Israeli one. “Turkish planes and Israel planes look like each other,” he was quoted as saying by the broadcaster, A Haber.

In the struggle to find a diplomatic solution to Syria’s turmoil, Kofi Annan, the special envoy to Syria for the United Nations and the Arab League, said he would convene a ministerial-level meeting on Saturday in Geneva involving what he has called countries of influence in the conflict. Mr. Annan’s peace plan has been paralyzed since he announced it more than two months ago,

Participants in the meeting would include the five permanent members of the Security Council — China, France, Russia, Britain and the United States — and emissaries from the European Union, the Arab League and Turkey. But the list of invitees conspicuously omitted Iran, Syria’s most important regional ally, which Mr. Annan had wanted to include. The United States and its allies objected strongly to Iran’s participation, contending that Iran aids the Syrian leader’s harsh repression of the 16-month-old uprising against him.

The conflicting accounts of who assaulted the television station, Al Ikhbaria, a satellite broadcaster, reflected the difficulties that outsiders face in determining the true course of events in the Syrian conflict, from which independent reporters and most international relief and monitoring officials are effectively barred.

Those difficulties were illustrated Wednesday in findings by a panel from the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, which is investigating rights violations in Syria but has been blocked from conducting the inquiry inside Syria and has relied heavily on testimony from refugees and defectors. The panel said that it was unable to determine conclusively who was responsible for the May 25 massacre of 108 civilians in Houla, a string of villages in western Syria, but that it “considers that forces loyal to the government may have been responsible for many of the deaths.”

While the investigators accused government forces of committing violations on “an alarming scale” in recent months, they also found that both sides had carried out summary executions. And they said the conflict had escalated significantly despite Mr. Annan’s peace entreaties.

“The situation on the ground has dramatically changed in the last three months as the hostilities by antigovernment armed groups each day take on more clearly the contours of an insurrection,” the investigators said. “As a result of the estimated flow of new weapons and ammunitions, both to the government forces and to the antigovernment armed groups, the situation risks becoming more aggravated in the coming months.”

The attack on Al Ikhbaria began before dawn, when assailants “planted explosive devices in the headquarters of Al Ikhbaria following their ransacking and destroying of the satellite channel studios, including the newsroom studio,” which was destroyed, the official Syrian news agency, SANA, reported.

The news agency referred to the assailants as terrorists, the usual official description of Mr. Assad’s armed opponents.

Al Ikhbaria, which means Syrian Satellite News, is privately owned but strongly supportive of the government. It is in the town of Drousha, about 14 miles south of Damascus.

Col. Malik Kurdi, a spokesman in Turkey for a rebel commander, Riad al-Assad of the Free Syrian Army, said the attack was carried out by a group of Republican Guard members who had decided to defect and had attacked other loyalist guards at the station. There was no way to independently verify the claim from Colonel Kurdi, who was interviewed by telephone from a refugee camp in southern Turkey.

The contradictory versions of events flowed partly from the information war between Mr. Assad’s government and its adversaries.

Anti-Assad activists have proved adept at offering their narrative of the uprising through video clips showing the fighting between government and opposition forces and the bloody aftermath. In recent months, Syrian state media outlets have sought to use similar imagery — sometimes identical — to bolster accusations against the rebels.

On its Web site, SANA showed photographs of what it said were wrecked studios at Al Ikhbaria and quoted Mr. Zoubi, the Syrian information minister, as saying the attackers had perpetrated “the worst massacre against journalism and the freedom of media when they executed the Syria media figures in cold blood.” Mr. Zoubi said the attackers had tied their victims’ hands behind their backs before killing them.

In its report to the Human Rights Council on Wednesday, the United Nations panel said violations “are occurring across the country on an alarming scale during military operations against locations believed to be hosting defectors and/or those perceived as affiliated with antigovernment armed groups.”

Paulo Pinheiro, the Brazilian chairman of the panel, said, “Gross human rights violations are occurring regularly in the context of increasingly militarized fighting.”

Syria’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, Faysal Khabbaz Hamoui, said the panel had “fallen into the trap of prejudice” and threatened to withdraw Syria’s cooperation from United Nations human rights bodies. He then walked out of the council chamber.

The panel warned that killings were increasingly driven by sectarian motives. “Where previously victims were targeted on the basis of their being pro- or antigovernment,” it said, the investigators had “recorded a growing number of incidents where victims appear to have been targeted because of their religious affiliation.”

Rod Nordland reported from Beirut, and Alan Cowell from London. Reporting was contributed by Hwaida Saad and Dalal Mawad from Beirut; an employee of The New York Times from Damascus, Syria; Nick Cumming-Bruce from Geneva; Sebnem Arsu from Istanbul; and Rick Gladstone from New York.

June 27. 2012

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NY Times