24 Feb 2012

Horror in Homs: the response

There has been a huge response around the world to the special Channel 4 News report from the heart of the besieged Syrian city of Homs.

The film, broadcast on Wednesday night, was shot by a French photojournalist, identified only as “Mani”. He managed to get into the city twice, spending time with civilians and rebel fighters from the Free Syrian Army, as the relentless bombardment continued.

Mani lived through, and filmed the beginning of, the assault and its devastating impact, in perhaps the clearest and most terrifying account of the onslaught. He witnessed the random shelling of civilians, acute food shortages, and the sheer horror of urban warfare.

Channel 4 News showed his report to the US State Department, who passed it on to Robert Ford, the American ambassador to Syria who pulled out a couple of weeks ago. He sent this note: “Thank you for sharing the link. A superb report – very much worth seeing. It doesn’t say what happened to the Mukhbarat snipers in the building finally seized, but we can imagine… note the part about the city dividing into sunni/alawi quarters with no movement between. Fits with what we’d started hearing two months ago.”

The video has been linked all over the world, and watched by countless groups online, including one inside Syria itself. Among the international media plaudits, Rob Mackey from the New York Times Lede blog wrote: “Britain’s Channel 4 News has produced a remarkable portrait of urban warfare in the Syrian city, between government forces and the lightly armed fighters of the Free Syria Army.”

Thank you for sharing the link. A superb report – very much worth seeing. Robert Ford, US ambassador to Syria

The Swedish television station SVT decided to show it in a special documentary programme, Agenda, after seeing the report via a link on the social networking site Twitter.

Here, the former Downing Street communications chief Alastair Campbell took to Twitter to comment: “Remarkable footage Channel 4 News from Homs. Brilliant journalism,” while the Guardian and Mail columnist Suzanne Moore, tweeted “Channel 4 News continues to be brilliant on Syria, pushing agenda forward.”

And the deputy Liberal Democrat leader in the House of Lords, Lord Dholakia, wrote: “The film brings the reality of what is going on in Syria. Surely it is a blot on the rest of the world to allow Assad’s regime to massacre its own people: the UN must act.”