A Syrian reporter for regime-supporting Addounia TV died on Friday, four days after being shot by what the state’s SANA news agency called “terrorists.” Suheil al-Ali was attacked outside his home in a suburb of Damascus.
Recently, the rebels have been targeting regime-run news agencies and their reporters, much as the regime has been targeting foreign journalists and the citizen-journalists and bloggers who provided so much of the information the outside world received about conditions inside Syria.
The center of the civil war has moved inward from the provinces to the suburbs and towns surrounding the capital, Damascus. The Syrian military is routinely firing rockets into the suburbs and aircraft have been attacking the town centers.
On Sunday, President Bashar al Assad will address the nation on television for the first time since June. His last television appearance was on November 8 in an interview with Russia Today wherein he pledged to “live and die in Syria.” Al Assad is expected to speak about “developments in Syria,” though no one expects him to mention the latest casualty figures issued by the United Nations, 60,000 dead and rising daily.
From the beginning, nearly two years ago, al Assad has blamed “foreign terrorists” for the rebellion, a statement that became a self-fulfilling prophecy when he failed to respond appropriately to the demands of his people for help for the southern provinces which are suffering through a prolonged drought and for substantial political reform. Now, there really are foreign terrorist groups in Syria, as well as Iranian fighters working for the regime.
It doesn’t matter which side targets journalists, it is wrong. Journalists are there to report the news, not be the news. They are non-combatants, even if they are spouting propaganda for one side or the other. Suheil al-Ali might very well have been sympathetic to the rebels, but feared for his family’s safety. He might have been completely apolitical. There is no way to know what is in a man’s heart. It has been the way of the regime to target non-combatants and residential neighborhoods. It must not become the way of the rebellion as well. Though the Free Syrian Army has welcomed the weapons brought to them by outside groups, the only way they are going to keep their rebellion legitimate is to start eliminating those terrorists who are coming into Syria to assert their agenda on the rebellion, those who are using suicide bombers, car bombs and attacks on non-combatants. The Syrian revolt was supposed to bring about more representation for Sunnis in the government, more opportunity for all Syrians, not an Islamic state like Iran. As horrible as it is to contemplate fighting two enemies at the same time, that is exactly what real Syrians must do to save their country.