Was Marie Covin deliberately targeted by Syrian artillery? There is no way of being totally certain, but the ‘media centre’ – a house some journalists were using in Homs – must have been a good source of ‘electronic activity’ which would not have been difficult to pick up and pin point.
Yesterday’s events illustrate all too clearly that Assad will do whatever it takes to prevent journalists feeding the world’s media with reports and images of his atrocities. He is desperate to do whatever he can to prevent the true extent of what’s going on in towns like Homs getting out.
Assad is even more concerned to limit what Syrians see, particularly members of the armed forces. Why? Because he’s only able to cling to power as long as the army remains on side. He doesn’t want his soldiers to see the true effects of their actions or more of them may be tempted to defect.
Whilst there have been reports that the number of defections from the army have been increasing, it’s not yet a major problem for Assad. It needs to be. Defections are his Achilles heel.
Jonathan Rugman, reporting for Channel 4 News from inside Syria this week, reported that Syrians were actually quite well informed. Even in some of the remote villages in the north were aware of what was going on in places like Homs and Hama and knew that the Russians and the Chinese had let them down at the UN. Aljazeera being the main source of their information.
Whether they have recognised it yet or not, journalists have a unique opportunity to avenge Marie Colvin’s death and help bring down the Assad regime. How? By increasing their coverage of defections and interviews of defectors. This is exactly the sort of thing Assad does not want his army to see. It may sound a simple plan, it is.
Without deliberately manipulating the news, but by emphasising that part of the news that could most affect change in Syria – defections, journalists have the power to help bring Assad’s reign of terror to an end. They need to help make defection in the Syrian army contagious.