Last updated: 23 February, 2012

Foreign Ministry: Syria not responsible for journalists’ deaths

The Syrian regime was not responsible for the deaths of two Western journalists who “sneaked” into the country, the foreign ministry said on Thursday.

“We reject statements holding Syria responsible for the deaths of journalists who sneaked into its territory at their own risk,” said a ministry statement carried by SANA state news agency.

The ministry offered its condolences to the “media organisations and families of the journalists who died in Syria,” a day after an American and a French journalist were killed by a rocket that struck a makeshift media centre set up by activists in the rebel-held neighbourhood of Baba Amr, in the flashpoint city of Homs.

The ministry urged journalists to “respect laws of journalistic work in Syria and avoid breaking the law by entering the country illegally to reach trouble-hit areas that are unsafe.”

It said the ministry of information has provided permits to some 200 media teams over the past two months, as many journalists infiltrate Syria to avoid strict restrictions imposed by authorities on their movement.

Veteran American journalist Marie Colvin, working for The Sunday Times, and French photojournalist Remi Ochlik, with the IP3 Press agency, were killed in Baba Amr. Edith Bouvier, a reporter for French daily Le Figaro and The Sunday Times photographer Paul Conroy were wounded.

Western powers condemned Syria for the killing of the journalists, with Washington denouncing the regime’s “shameless brutality” and Paris holding Syrian authorities responsible.

French television reporter Gilles Jacquier was killed in Homs last month when a shell exploded amid a group of journalists covering protests in the city on a visit organised by the Syrian authorities.