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Gunshots end footage of Japanese reporter slain in Syria [Video]

August 22, 2012 | 11:18 am

BEIRUT — Gunshots ring out. The video camera suddenly drops toward the pavement.

The last footage taken by Mika Yamamoto, the Japanese journalist who died Monday in Syria, ends abruptly with those sudden shots, a grim parallel to her own life being cut short.

Yamamoto, 45, lost her life in a clash between rebels and government forces while traveling with the Free Syrian Army, Japanese Foreign Minister Masaru Sato told the Associated Press on Tuesday. Another scene in the video, released by the television news agency she worked for, shows Yamamoto in a van, telling the camera she is heading to the front lines of the fighting.

But the newly released video also testifies to how the veteran war correspondent looked to capture the conflict beyond battle. Before her death, Yamamoto and her partner recorded scenes of a battered Aleppo, the camera lingering on the people still living amid the violence — women waving from a balcony, a wide-eyed baby being carried in the streets.

"She is not a war journalist, but rather a human journalist," her father, Hiroshi Yamamoto, told Japanese media, reflecting on her career in embattled cities such as Baghdad and Kabul, Afghanistan. "She always talked about the miseries of people involved in conflicts, human lives and world peace.”

Yamamoto was the sixth foreign journalist to die in Syria, including French reporter Gilles Jacquier and New York Times journalist Anthony Shadid, who died of a severe asthma attack; the Committee to Protect Journalists says at least 17 journalists from both Syria and abroad have perished there since last November.

The violence has taken a toll on Syrian journalists on both sides of the conflict. Among the dead are Bara’a Yusuf Bushi, a 24-year-old army defector who provided information to Al Arabiya and other media outlets, killed in a bomb attack earlier this month. Before the uprising against President Bashar Assad, he worked as a reporter for the Syria News website.

Fellow journalist Amer Matar said Bushi had been drafted for mandatory military service a few months before the rebellion erupted. In a May video, he announced his defection, declaring he would work as a journalist “to report news of the Free Syrian Army and the revolution."

The same day that Bushi died, a journalist working for the official Syrian Arab News Agency, Ali Abbas, was assassinated by a “terrorist group” in his house in the Damascus suburbs, his news agency reported. Abbas, 37, had studied journalism at Damascus University and was the head of the internal news department at the state media agency when he died.

Several journalists reporting for television channels that favor the Syrian government have been kidnapped by rebels in recent weeks, apparently as bargaining chips to try to halt the shelling; some were later released. At least 30 Syrian journalists, including citizen journalists, are now detained in Syria, Reporters Without Borders said Wednesday.

Media freedom groups have denounced the killings and abductions, noting that journalists working for pro-government media have borne the brunt of recent attacks.

The Reuters video above includes translations of what Yamamoto is telling the camera. The Associated Press also shared this untranslated version of the Japan Press video, which includes more of the footage before the gunshots but does not include the last scene:


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— Rima Marrouch in Beirut and Emily Alpert in Los Angeles