Last updated: 13 August, 2012

UN condemns attacks on media in Syria

The head of the United Nations observer mission in Syria on Monday condemned attacks on the media in the conflict-torn country, following the murder of a state journalist at the weekend.

“Whatever the country, the UN is committed to the freedom of the press and the media,” General Babacar Gaye told reporters in Damascus.

“In this country, the press has a tremendous role to play, so we condemn any violence on the media coming from any side,” he said, also accusing both the army and rebels of failing to protect civilians.

The official SANA news agency said that the head of its home news department, Abbas Ali, was assassinated by an “armed terrorist group” at his home in Jdaidet Artuz outside the capital on Saturday.

And on Friday, rebels abducted three state television journalists as they accompanied government troops operating near Damascus, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

A bomb attack on state television headquarters wounded several people last week and an Al-Qaeda linked group claimed the abduction and murder earlier this month of state television presenter Mohammed al-Saeed.

Rami Abdel Rahman, the director of the Syrian Observatory, said he condemned the killing of journalists by any side.

“Even if he is with the regime, these are journalists and not combatants,” Abdel Rahman told AFP in Beirut.

Meanwhile, Gaye, the head of the United Nations Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS), urged both sides to respect international humanitarian law and to protect civilians.

“The indiscriminate use of heavy weapons by the government and targeted attacks by the opposition in urban centres are inflicting a heavy toll on innocent civilians,” said the Senegalese general.

“The conflict has gone on too long and far too many people are suffering,” he said. “We will continue to the last minute of our mandate to urge the parties to move from confrontation to dialogue.”

The UN Security Council is due to meet on Thursday to discuss the future of the mission, whose mandate expires on August 19.