I have known Marie Colvin since the nineties in London, as she was almost knowledgeable in Middle Eastern affairs at the Sunday Times. She was among few American journalists who worked and succeeded in the British print media. We knew her as a brave woman, who refused to give up her career in media after losing an eye in a previous battle. Therefore, I wasn’t taken by surprise when I learned that she sneaked inside Syria, which is now considered the world's main battlefield.
You might wonder why we haven’t seen Arab journalists taking the risk for the sake of reporting and documenting the Syrian bloody events, yet? Actually, I was approached by many brave ones, including my own colleagues at Al Arabiya news TV channel, who asked for help to be smuggled into Syria. My advice was always not to risk their lives when the danger is almost certain. Before the French reporter Gilles Jacquier was killed two months ago, we knew that the Arab journalists were targeted. To the regime killing an Arab journalist is quite cheap. None of the Arab governments would condemn or seek punishment for their citizen’s death. On the contrary, targeting western journalists might be expensive. It would trigger a campaign by western media against the Syrian regime and may be a public support for intervention.
Here we should mention that the Syrian protesters are doing amazing job on behalf of the media. They report facts, almost equal in quality to the work done by media professionals. They document events with footage, and record the full names of the victims answering all the “how, when and what” questions?
There is no doubt that western reporters, with their presence on the field, have given credibility to what others reported, including protesters.
I believe that shelling the house where the journalists were staying in Baba Amro neighborhood in Homs was deliberately planned by the government forces with the aim of killing foreign journalists. The regime’s aggressive attitude towards western journalists; as two have been killed and four others injured, reflects an escalation in the level of confrontation to its highest. In the past, the regime avoided harming western journalists, except for one incident when a French reporter was killed in an open confrontation.
As why the regime has dared to kill westerners in such intensive violence? The logic explanation is that the regime intends to commit bigger massacres and expand its military operations for the sake of putting off the lights and putting an end to the unbiased reporting from the targeted areas. In other words, war is about to enter a wider and more dangerous phase and then no one will be watching.
The Syrian regime, which was much relieved following the double veto by Russia and China at the Security Council, is feeling safe against any possible international intervention. It feels that the world has lost the appetite to rescue any more slaughtered people, after Libya -- the last international war. That’s how the Syrian regime thinks and it might have the right to believe so. However, killing the western journalists will probably provoke all mass media, especially where some media is not sure of what is really happening. Some journalists still believe that the Syrian revolution is nothing but a militant movement that will give birth to more al-Qaeda operatives and fanatic Salafis.
By the unfortunate death of our colleague journalists, the Syrian regime has lost any possible support, even from the skeptic and apathetic ones. Any regime targeting noncombatant professionals such as journalists, medics and charity volunteers, is an indication that its end is nearing.
The writer is the General Manager of Al Arabiya. The article was published by the London-based Asharq al-Awsat on Feb. 23, 2012, and was translated by Abeer Tayel