A group of Syrian fighters in Azaz area has been accused of holding hostage the Lebanese journalist, Fedaa Etani, who risked his life and agreed to accompany them as a journalist and photographer. His arrest renewed the debate how long one should remain silent against the offenses journalists are facing in the coverage of the Syrian revolution.
Whatever be the justification of the kidnappers for this act, it is a crime against the media, especially when the group that claims to be the host decided to detain him.
Those who cause harm to media people will lose their most important resources, that is the media itself: The catalyst for any revolution in the world.
Without the support of media, the revolution in Syria will lose everything that it has earned. Today, it is in a very difficult situation and badly needs all support and sympathy.
Personally, I am neither speaking in defense of the media that support revolution, not I am backing those who are neutral, but I am speaking on behalf of the media in general, including those working for the benefit of the Syrian regime. They have the same rights and their protection and safety should be ensured regardless of their attitudes and reports. This is our duty toward them in spite of our deep differences. The protection of journalists during wartime is a duty no matter what their attitudes and affiliations are. It is an obligation on the media itself.
Without a bold media and courageous journalists, revolutions would not gain the sympathy of the world. In this case it will not win the sympathy of the Syrian people as well. Without paying respect to the media, irrespective of its stances, the revolution would lose the support of even those who are on its side and at the end will lose all it has gained.
We blame, in particular, the different organizations of the Syrian revolution/opposition, not the Syrian regime itself because these organizations are the rightful owners of the cause. They are the ones gaining from the media.
Therefore, the detention of the BBC reporter or the kidnapping of the Ukrainian correspondent are things that worry us all in the profession.
Why are the fighters afraid of an Ukrainian correspondent, even if she files reports for the benefit of the regime? We all have determined our positions after more than a year of controversy and fighting. Majority of the people in the world are against the Assad regime and nothing will change by what a correspondent says, or by shots taken by a Western photographer that may not please the rebels.
If the opposition fighters kidnapped a woman only because she said something they didn't like on the TV screen she works for, then what is the difference between them and the Assad regime that imprisons and kills people because they speak against it.
Our profession is based on the recognition of the journalists’ right to attend, watch and get protection to do his job. And without that newspapers and TV stations wouldn't be able to follow up events. Those journalists who go to war zones are not rebels, it's not their personal or national cause. They are professionals different from others in terms of courage and they embark on adventures they are not obliged to. So, whatever their attitudes and reports, we expect Syrian rebels to be more noble and respectful in dealing with media reporters working for Assad regime and his gangs.
We, as media persons, cannot remain silent and watch the kidnapping of journalists or their killings irrespective of their political affiliations or the institutions and countries they belong to.
Syrian fighters have the right to deny access to those media persons they don't trust. They can refrain from providing information to whichever media institution they choose. But it is not their right to detain journalists or kidnap them just because they work for the other side.
By violating international rules and the norms that protect journalists, they are undermining those who support them and in fact are providing ammunition to the regime’s propaganda against them. Since the beginning, the Syrian regime sought to suppress the media thinking that if it could expand the gap between the media and the Syrian opposition it will gain a lot. The reason is that it wants to commit crimes without being noticed and tries to discredit the Syrian people and make mockery of their enthusiasm, patience and willingness to sacrifice. It also wants the revolution to lose the tremendous amount of support it has gained.
The writer is the General Manager of Al Arabiya. The article was published in the Saudi-based Arab News on Oct. 29, 2012