Syrian state journalist, videographer killed

New York, January 3, 2012–A Syrian state journalist and a videographer who documented unrest in Homs province were separately shot and killed in recent days, according to news accounts. The Committee to Protect Journalists is investigating the circumstances surrounding the two deaths.

Shukri Abu al-Burghul, a host on state-owned Radio Damascus and an editor with the state-owned daily Al-Thawra, was shot in the head by unidentified gunmen on Friday in his home in the Damascus suburb of Darya, according to several news reports. Hospitalized, he died of his injuries on Monday, news outlets reported.

Abu al-Burghul worked as a reporter for more than three decades with both Al-Thawra and Radio Damascus, according to news reports. The state-owned television broadcaster reported that the journalist was shot by “armed terrorist groups.” The government has routinely blamed unrest, killings, and acts of sabotage on armed terrorist groups but has consistently failed to provide evidence to support those claims.

Basil al-Sayed, who regularly filmed security forces cracking down on anti-regime protesters in his neighborhood of Baba Amr in the city of Homs, died in a local hospital of gunshot wounds on December 27, according to news reports. News accounts attributed the shooting to Syrian security forces, although it was not immediately clear when he was shot. The 24-year-old had taken hundreds of hours of video footage, Rami Jarrah, an exiled Syrian activist, told NPR. His footage appeared on the sites of loosely-knit citizen news organizations.

With an effective ban on foreign journalists in Syria and with local media neutralized, international media have heavily relied on footage shot by al-Sayed and other citizen journalists.

“We grieve the killings of Abu al-Burghul and al-Sayed,” said Mohamed Abdel Dayem, CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa program coordinator.  “The government has expelled international media, detained or otherwise sidelined professional local journalists, and now with the death of al-Sayed is killing citizens who attempt to fill the reporting gap.”

Three journalists have been killed in Syria since November. The first was Ferzat Jarban, a cameraman found dead with his eyes gouged out in the town of al-Qasir in Homs; he had last been seen being arrested after filming at a protest. The three recent deaths are the first CPJ has documented in Syria since it began keeping track of media fatalities in 1992.