Wednesday, 14 August 2013
One year ago missing freelancer Austin Tice was abducted in Syria. Since that day at least 37 international journalists have been kidnapped whilst covering the conflict there. 27 of these were freelancers. 10 are still missing.
The situation for journalists in Syria is unprecedented, and it's getting worse. Freelancers tell us that the situation is becoming more dangerous and unpredictable by the day.
The argument is no longer about experience versus inexperience. This is a new situation where no amount of planning or preparation can reliably reduce the possibility of kidnapping or abduction.
Twelve months after Austin's disappearance, the Tice family have still not heard from their son. And they are not alone.
When freelancers go missing in Syria they fall into a black hole.
We can't stop freelancers going to Syria, even if we want to. But we can urge them to think very carefully about the consequences for themselves, their family and their colleagues if they do.
We're not the only ones. Many freelancers who have been working regularly in Syria are now re-thinking. Javier Manzano, a freelance photojournalist and filmmaker who has been covering the conflict for the last year tells us that the ground rules that applied a few months back have now significantly altered, especially in northern Syria.
"It would be unwise (at best) and irresponsible (at worst) to go inside Syria as an independent journalist at this time", he said.
"Our presence there will not only expose ourselves to kidnapping, but can potentially endanger the lives of the locals who are trying to help journalists operate in their country. I would suggest that anyone thinking of independently covering the conflict in northern Syria, to seriously consider re-evaluating their plans and avoid the area entirely."
Freelancers, think carefully about Syria. Do you really have to go?
Image from 2013 Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph by Javier Manzano. Karmel Jabl neighbourhood in Aleppo. (Taken October 18 2012.)