Victims of the conflict: journalists killed, activists arrested, HRDs disappeared
Journalists reporting in Syria are in constant danger and risk their lives to document the humanitarian crisis, as well as the human rights violations and war crimes committed against civilians. The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) - an independent, non-governmental organisation registered in the United States and United Kingdom - documents the situation for journalists, activists and humanitarian aid workers in the war-torn country. Fadel Abd Al Ghany, SNHR's chair, spoke about the importance of frequently documenting and reporting on the murders, arrests and rights' violations in Syria, stating that:
“Media activism is especially important because it often sheds light on a string of various crimes that are taking place on a daily basis. Therefore, we record the violations perpetrated by conflicting parties in our monthly reports on violations against media activists”.
As SNHR has reported, the number of civilian casualties has only increased over the last several months. In April 2017, four media activists were killed and thirteen activists injured. And in May, five media activists perished at the hands of the warring factions, and another five media activists were arrested.
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, on 13th May 2017 Kurdish security forces arrested journalist Barzan Hussein Liani of Zagros TV, which is owned by the Kurdish Democratic Party. Liani was arrested in Rojava, where the Kurdish Democratic Party Union controls the political scene. He remains in detention to this day on unspecified charges.
The whereabouts and conditions of many human rights defenders (HRDs) in Syria remain unknown. Syrian-Palestinian digital activist, Bassel Khartabil, was detained in March 2012 by military intelligence and held in incommunicado detention for eight months before the authorities transferred him to Adra Central prison, where he was reportedly tortured and subjected to ill-treatment. In October 2015, he managed to inform his family that he was to be transferred to another location; however, since that time no one has heard from him. The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) released a statement on 3rd May 2017 calling on the Syrian authorities to immediately disclose Khartabil's whereabouts and allow him access to legal counsel and to contact his family.
In April 2017, GCHR also called attention to the ongoing detention of human rights defender, Razan Zaitouneh. On 9th December 2013, Zaitouneh and three others human rights defenders – collectively known as the “Douma Four” - were abducted by a group of armed men during a raid on the Violations Documentation Centre. The four activists are thought to be held by armed groups in control of the area.