New York, January 18, 2013–An international journalist was killed by a sniper while covering fighting in Aleppo in Syria on Thursday, according to local and international press reports. The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on all sides of the conflict to stop targeting journalists and allow them to report freely within the country.
Debay, a Belgian-born French journalist, was based in Aleppo, where he covered clashes between the Syrian army and opposition forces in the city for his online newsmagazine Assaut (Assault), according to news reports. A veteran military correspondent, he contributed reports for the French military magazine Raid, and had written several books about military conflicts.
Debay’s death was first reported by the Syrian Media Center, a Facebook group associated with the Syrian opposition. The group said that Debay was accompanying fighters from the Free Syrian Army who were headed to reclaim a local hospital, local reports said. The group also said they believed the sniper was affiliated with the Syrian regime because he was stationed at the top of the Central Prison, toward the north of the city, an area controlled by the regime. The Syrian Media Center posted a video showing Debay’s body in a hospital and his French passport.
Debay’s death was confirmed by the French president today, according to news reports.
Debay’s death marks the first journalist killed in Syria in 2013, according to CPJ research. At least 29 other journalists were killed covering the Syrian conflict in 2012, including one just over the border in Lebanon, CPJ research shows. CPJ ranked Syria the most dangerous place in the world for journalists in 2012.
“We condemn the targeted murder of Yves Debay and call on all sides of the conflict to respect the role that journalists play in conflict zones and allow them to work freely without fearing for their lives,” said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour. “Journalists in Syria must be afforded the civilian protections they are entitled to under international law.”
Irina Bokova, director-general of UNESCO, issued a statement on January 9 in which she expressed grave concern over the continued killing of journalists in Syria and called on all parties to recognize a reporter’s duty to continue informing the public even in the midst of strife.
- For more data and analysis on Syria, visit CPJ’s Syria page here.