Inside Syria

Syria: Too dangerous to cover?

We look at the risks and challenges facing the media trying to document the ongoing civil war.

It is a conflict that presents a dangerous set of challenges for those trying to document and make sense of Syria’s civil war – journalists, filmmakers, activists and ordinary citizens.

People are becoming suspicious of journalists and accusing them of being spies - in any war the Red Cross emblem should be respected and so too the journalist - you have to respect the journalists' role but we are not seen as neutral.

by  Zeina Khodr, Al Jazeera's senior correspondent

The uprising began with peaceful protests for greater freedoms and democracy during the Arab Spring of 2011.

But it turned into a full-blown conflict between the government of President Bashar al-Assad and the opposition forces trying to force him out of power.

Much of the world’s view of the war has been shaped by the tens of thousands of online videos posted on Youtube, Twitter and other social media.

Many of these have provided a valuable window on Syria’s war, but many videos are also shot in areas out of the reach of independent journalists, and with that comes the challenge of separating fact from fiction.

Syria has become an extremely dangerous place for journalists, photographers and video camera operators.

At least 50 reporters were killed in Syria since the start of the war, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

In 2011, Syria was ranked the eighth most dangerous country in the world for journalists – two reporters were killed that year.

In 2012, conditions deteriorated and Syria became by far the most dangerous country to report from, with 31 journalists killed in combat, or targeted by either government or opposition forces.

This year, Syria remains the worst country to report from, with 17 journalists killed so far. 

So, has the Syrian conflict become too dangerous to cover?

Inside Syria, with presenter Hazem Sika, discusses with guests: Matthew Van Dyke, the filmmaker of a documentary about Syria called Not Anymore: A Story of Revolution; Joshua Landis, the director of the Center for Middle East Studies and a professor at the University of Oklahoma; and Zeina Khodr, Al Jazeera’s senior correspondent who has been covering the Syrian conflict from the beginning.

“It is also a question of historical context, because the story in the first year was of violence and the incredible use of violence … I don’t think people understood how brutal these regimes were and that was the story. But getting the historical context has been so much harder – and understanding the fears and ‘why are people so divided in the region?’ – I think that has been the story today and we are beginning to understand some of that, but the historical context is not there – it’s like covering America and Black-White relations without understanding there is slavery, without understanding the painful past – and that painful past [in Syria] has still not been explored.”

Joshua Landis, the director of the Center for Middle East Studies