Bassam Raies

I saw an angry tweet by Razan Saffour @RazanSpeaks saying a journalist called Bassam Raies was killed by ISIS two weeks ago and there wasn’t a peep about it. So I looked for news and…it’s true, there’s not a peep about it, which means I can’t even tell if it’s true or not. There are a few mentions but they’re all identical and all from either Twitter or random sites that I don’t recognize.

Reporters Without Borders has nothing. The Committee to Protect Journalists has nothing. I think they would have anything if there were anything to have, so…I’m not sure this is a true story. But if it is, I would like to make a peep about it.

Of course that’s Razan Saffour’s point: there’s nothing. So maybe it’s a real story and there’s nothing in English. If so that’s pathetic and shocking.


  1. =8)-DX says

    I guess it goes to show that the usage “internets” is accurate – language barriers create many online communities with limited overlap. Czech news is often not googlable in English.

  2. debry says

    Ther’s a link in the twitter responses to the tweet, so you can find the news on But not in its English version. It seems to be more than a google fail : the death of that man is not only ungoogolable but also “non bankable”, not even for an Arab website,I fear…

  3. artymorty says

    I’ve found some bits and pieces about Bassam Raies, but they’re not all consistent, and the discrepancies raise interesting questions about the man, and about “citizen journalism” and “media activism” in Syria.

    Firstly, all accounts seem to agree on this: Bassam al-Rayes (alternatively spelled al-Rayyis or Rais) was executed by ISIS gunmen on 30 June in Eastern Ghouta, in the countryside outside Damascus, along with seven members of the Army of Islam, a Syrian Islamist rebel group backed by Saudi Arabia.

    Here’s a mention from the “Institute for the Study of War” (some sort of military think-tank from the US):

    Here’s where it gets murky: the many independent local “media activist” websites reporting on Syria variously describe al-Rayes as a photographer, a journalist, and a fellow “media activist.” But he’s also been reported as a “spokesperson” for, or even a combatant with, the Army of Islam — a “mujahideen.” That could be due to Arabic-English mistranslation, or perhaps partisan rhetoric (unsurprisingly there’s lots of that: one website calls him a “liquidated terrorist”), or it could just be an assumption based on the region in which he died (where the Army of Islam is the dominant rebel faction) and the people he was with at the time. But as far as I know it could also be true.

    So I wonder, did Bassam al-Rayes die in an act of journalism, jihad, or both? It’s hard to find quality non-partisan “objective” information from the ground over there, so it’s hard to know for sure.

    The labels “citizen journalist” and “media activist” are so broad — they can be applied to virtually anyone with a cellphone and a twitter account — that not all of their adherents can be automatically presumed to be innocent civilians. Someone can be shooting with a smartphone one minute and an AK-47 the next. (A high-ranking — now dead — associate of ISIS, also described as a “media activist” and “press officer” by major media outlets and the US State Department, once abruptly broke off from filming an interview with Vice News to fire his assault rifle at enemies.)

    To be clear, I’m not saying citizen journalists are “fair game” — far from it! I’m not even saying that Bassam al-Rayes was fair game. I am saying there are reports that suggest al-Rayes may not have been a “journalist” in the sense that we usually think “journalist” means: a non-combatant civilian providing an essential service in a dangerous environment. But then again, those reports come from sources that raise their own questions of objectivity and neutrality…

    There’s an excellent article at the Committee to Protect Journalists about the phenomenon of citizen journalism in the region. It touches on the challenge of getting objective reporting out. Here’s a quote:

    “Those working today are a mixture of people who are suffering, have personal aspirations, and are facing personal circumstances that show in their work,” said [exiled Syrian journalist Mowaffaq] Safadi, in a Skype interview from a café in Istanbul. “Although they are motivated to provide essential information from inside Syria, they are exposed emotionally, and they are connected to what’s happening personally. It’s hard to stop and have the objectivity needed to report.”

    Nevertheless, they are still doing heroic, dangerous work, and we need to shed more light on them. The number of professional and citizen journalists killed in Syria since the beginning of the conflict is huge: I’ve read estimates between 110 to over 350. The Syrian Network for Human Rights (a “non-partisan organization” that the UN “depended on… as primary source in all the statistics of analyzing Syrian conflict’s victims”) reports that in August alone nine media activists were killed, including a man named Mohammad Bassel Al-Iran who was executed by ISIS after being captured and imprisoned for a week. There should indeed be more peeps about this!

    Well, for a start, I think everyone should read the CPJ article I quoted from. Here it is:

  4. says

    That is indeed why, and that is one reason I posted this – I was hoping someone who does know Arabic would know more or be able to find more. (On the other hand that url looks very weird; I’m wary of clicking it.)

  5. says

    It’s a quite safe link.

    Southern African Freelancers’ Association’ very briefly mentioned him today:

    “Lotter noted that: “Journalists are drawn from all countries and faiths. Although his murder received scant publicity, Bassam Rais, a Muslim Syrian journalist, was also executed by ISIS in recent weeks.””

  6. JY says

    The reason the link looks funny is because it’s Arabic script. It renders like that in some browsers, I don’t know why.

  7. RL says

    In a URL link a percent sign followed by two alphanumeric characters is an innocent sign for a special character. In this instance the there’s a long string because each on stands for an Arabic character. Our browsers automatically render them that way the same way that they convert normal spaces to a hyphen.

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