Who was responsible for France 2 TV correspondent Gilles Jacquier’s death one year ago today in the Syrian city of Homs? Who fired the mortar shell that killed the French journalist at the foot of a building’s stairway? Someone from the Assad regime, with the aim of discouraging reporting by foreign journalists? Or the rebels?
Reporters Without Borders reiterates its support for Jacquier’s family, friends and colleagues following the emergence, just days before the first anniversary of his death, of a new account claiming to explain how he died. The media freedom organization calls for every effort to be made to shed light on Jacquier’s death and on the deaths of all the other foreign and Syrian journalists who have lost their lives covering this conflict.
“Gilles Jacquier, who always tried to establish the truth about the wars he covered, deserves that the truth be known about his own death,” Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. “Unfortunately, this has become a political issue, with contradictory versions. But it is vital for his family and for all of us that the truth should finally be established.”
A July 2012 article in the daily Le Figaro suggested that Jacquier was killed by rebels. But this has now been contradicted by a communiqué from the rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA), which was reported by Al-Arabiyya TV three days ago, on 8 January. The FSA communiqué said opposition fighters in Syria had announced the capture of members of an armed group working for the Assad regime who had admitted responsibility for Jacquier’s death. The FSA said it was ready to hand over these men to the French authorities or to an international tribunal.
Yesterday, the France 2 programme “Envoyé Spécial” ran an investigative story about the contradictory versions and lack of evidence. It concluded that the parties to the conflict were using his death for “propaganda purposes.”
The prosecutor’s office in Paris formally opened an investigation into Jacquier’s death two days after it took place. The French investigation is treating it as a deliberate murder.
The number of journalists killed in Syria has grown steadily since the start of the uprising in March 2011. Suhail Mahmoud Al-Ali became the 19th journalist to be killed in this war a week ago, on 4 January. At least 49 citizen-journalists are also believed to have been killed. “Working as reporter in a war zone has always been risky, but a new threshold has been crossed with the conflict in Syria,” Deloire added. “Journalists are being deliberately targeted with the clear aim of blocking their work and exploiting them. It is becoming harder and harder to report what is happening on the ground. This is a war that is being waged in virtual secrecy.”