Two more journalists killed in Syria

New York, November 26, 2012–At least two journalists have been killed over the past five days while documenting unrest in Syria, according to news reports.

Mohamed al-Khal was killed in government shelling of the Hamidiya neighborhood in the eastern city of Deir al-Zour while covering clashes between government forces and the rebel Free Syrian Army on Sunday, according to local news broadcaster DeirEzzorTV and the Shaam News Network. Al-Khal, a videographer, had contributed hundreds of hours of footage to the Shaam News Network, including that of clashes, civilian injuries, and fighting since the start of the Syrian uprising in March 2011, and had also contributed to DeirEzzorTV, the same sources said.

Another journalist, Basel Tawfiq Youssef, a reporter for Syrian State TV, was shot dead outside his home in the Tadamoun neighborhood of Damascus on Wednesday, according to a report by the broadcaster. He had worked for Syrian State TV for eight years and had been kidnapped and threatened in the past three months, the report said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Youssef was killed by rebel forces, according to Agence France-Presse. The report issued by Youssef’s employer said the journalist was killed by terrorists who were linked to Al-Qaeda. Since the start of the uprising, the regime has used “terrorists” as a catch-all phrase for all opposition fighters, according to news reports.

“Syrian journalists continue to take great risks to report on this extremely dangerous conflict,” said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour. “We remind both sides of this conflict to afford journalists the civilian protections they are entitled to under international law.”

In a separate development, Cüneyt Ünal, the Turkish cameraman working for the U.S.-government funded Al-Hurra, was released on November 17 after almost three months in government custody, according to news reports. A Turkish delegation had secured his release, news reports said.

Ünal had been taken captive by government forces after a blast in Aleppo that seriously injured Ünal’s Al-Hurra colleague, Bashar Fahmi, a Jordanian citizen of Palestinian origin. In an interview with Turkey’s NTV television, Ünal said he had taken his wounded colleague into an apartment building, but left to get help and was “captured by a group of people who later handed him over to Syrian government forces,” according to news reports quoting his interview.

Ünal told journalists he was kept in a prison cell in Aleppo and fed “bread and potatoes,” but was not mistreated, according to news reports. Fahmi’s whereabouts remain unknown.

Two other international journalists have been taken captive in Syria. U.S. freelance journalist Austin Tice disappeared in mid-August, according to news reports. Tice is believed to be held in Syrian state custody, according to the U.S. State Department. Anhar Kochneva, a Ukrainian who has contributed to several Russian news outlets including the Moscow-based broadcast outlet Russia Today, disappeared on October 9. She contacted her colleagues a few days later to say she was being held by the rebel Free Syrian Army, according to news reports.

At least 25 other journalists have been killed while covering the Syrian conflict since November, including one killed just over the border in Lebanon, CPJ research shows. CPJ has ranked Syria the most dangerous place in the world for journalists.

  • For more data and analysis on Syria, visit CPJ’s Syria page here.