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Friday, Aug. 24, 2012
Death of an experienced journalist
Ms. Mika Yamamoto, a video journalist belonging to the Tokyo-based independent media group The Japan Press, was killed on Monday while covering the conflict in Syria between government and rebel forces in Aleppo.
Ms. Yamamoto, 45, was an experienced video journalist. She had covered various conflict areas in the world, including Uganda, Chechnya, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq.
In 2003, she received the special prize of the Vaughn-Uyeda Memorial Prize, which is awarded to Japanese journalists for their contributions and work in reporting on international affairs. We sincerely pray that her soul finds eternal peace.
It must be remembered that it is only because of people like Ms. Yamamoto that we truly come to understand war and its destructive consequences because they are willing to risk everything by placing themselves at the heart of the fighting. They also provide a platform to hear the voices of the common people who suffer most during times of conflict.
Reports by journalists on the tragedy and misery caused by conflicts can influence public opinion, government leaders and help pave the way for peace. Ms. Yamamoto's death reminds us of the important role journalism can play in helping to bring an end to war and help restore peace.
According to Reporters Without Borders, a French-based nongovernmental organization that champions the cause of press freedom and the freedom of information, besides Ms. Yamamoto, at least five journalists have been killed this year while covering the conflict in Syria. This testifies to the fierce fighting and deterioration of the overall situation in the country. In Aleppo, rebel forces started a full-scale offensive in late July. Government forces are using artillery bombardment and air raids to repel them.
The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that in the fighting in Aleppo that Ms. Yamamoto was covering, three other journalists — two Arabs, one of them a Lebanese woman, and a Turkish reporter — have gone missing.
Journalists who cover conflicts are usually very cautious. Ms. Yamamoto is reported to have often told acquaintances that she was "timid." According to Mr. Kazutaka Sato, a video journalist from The Japan Press who covered the Aleppo fighting with Ms. Yamamoto, they and the two Arab media reporters entered Aleppo from the southern Turkish city of Kilis and moved together with rebel forces. They entered an area where it wasn't clear which force was in control.
Ms. Yamamoto mistook an approaching group of camouflaged government soldiers for rebels. When she pointed her video camera towards them, guns were fired (about 20 meters away). The other reporters dispersed while the soldiers continued firing.
The United Nations Supervision Mission in Syria has just withdrawn. Mr. Kofi Annan, U.N. peace envoy to Syria, will leave his job at the end of this month. China and Russia are opposed to sanctions against Syria.
As the Syrian situation worsens, Japan should urge the parties concerned, including the Syrian government and rebel forces, to make serious efforts to end the bloody conflict in which 25,000 people have been reported killed so far.