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Monday, 11 June 2012

UK Reporter Claims Syria Rebels Wanted Him Shot by Army

Led ‘Straight into a Free-Fire Zone’, Says Alex Thomson 

By: Naomi Hunt, Senior Press Freedom Adviser

Men wait to buy bread in front of a bakery shop during winter in Al Qusayr, a city in western Syria about 4.8km (3 miles) southwest of Homs, March 1, 2012. Channel 4 correspondent Alex Thomson said it was in this town that his crew met with the rebel forces that tried to set them up. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic

VIENNA, June 11, 2012 – The International Press Institute (IPI) today expressed concern over allegations made on Friday, June 8, in a blog post by Channel 4 reporter Alex Thomson, who claimed that members of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) deliberately put him and his colleagues in the way of Syrian Army fire.

Thomson, Channel 4’s anchor and chief correspondent, described travelling with a UN convoy headed west of Homs to meet with “civilian and military leaders” in Al Qusaya. With their deadline approaching, he and his crew decided to return to Homs but were instead led into what Thomson said was a trap.

“Led in fact, straight into a free-fire zone,” Thomson wrote.  “Told by the Free Syrian Army to follow a road that was blocked off in the middle of no-man’s-land.”

He believes that the FSA was looking for a public relations win. He wrote: “I’m quite clear the rebels deliberately set us up to be shot by the Syrian Army. Dead journos are bad for Damascus.”

A human rights activist who worked on the Arab League Observer mission later told Thomson via Twitter that he’d had a similar experience.

Meanwhile, the fate of citizen reporter and opposition spokesperson Ibrahim Hajji al-Halabi, who was reportedly arrested on May 12, remains unknown, according to the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders (RSF). Al-Halabi’s camera, laptop and memory cards were seized at the time of his arrest, according to RSF, which said the opposition spokesperson was at risk of torture “if not worse”.