Monday, 23 January 2012

French journalist killed in Syria – accident or deliberate attack on the press?

Gilles Jacquier/YouTube video still
 Just as I wrote my last post, yet another journalist has been killed, this time in Syria,  in what appears to be another deliberate attack on the press.

Gilles Jacquier, 43, an award-winning foreign correspondent for French state television’s France 2, was killed last week in an attack in the divided city of Homs, during a government-escorted media trip, according to an article in the Guardian.

Jacquier, who became the first foreign reporter to die since protests against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime began in March, was among a group of 15 journalists, when he was hit in the attack, which also killed nine Syrians and injured 25.

Prosecutors in Paris have launched a preliminary murder inquiry as the French government presses for an independent inquiry.

France Télévision filed a legal complaint over the death, saying many unanswered questions remained. The corporation’s editorial director, Thierry Thuillier, said the journalists had been travelling in a convoy with a military escort that strictly controlled media’s movements.

“When the firing started, the Syrian soldiers withdrew, leaving the journalists alone and exposed. Why?” Thuillier asked. He added the fire that killed the journalist seemed to have been very “precise.”

An unnamed source close to president Nicolas Sarkozy was quoted in Le Figaro newspaper saying: “The Syrian authorities were the only ones who knew that a group of western journalists were visiting Homs that day and in which neighbourhood they were in…One could believe it was an unfortunate accident. But it’s a bit of a coincidence for a regime that seeks to discourage foreign journalists and demonise the upbringing.”

Sarkozy has been one of Assad’s most outspoken western critics, calling repeatedly for him to leave office.

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