Al-Jazeera cameraman killed in shelling in Syria

Beirut, June 26, 2015–An Al-Jazeera cameraman was killed today while covering clashes between regime forces and rebels in the southern Syrian province of Daraa, the pan-Arab broadcaster reported. Mohammed al-Asfar is the second Al-Jazeera journalist to be killed in the province since December.

“Syria is the most dangerous place in the world to be a journalist,” Sherif Mansour, CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa program coordinator, said from Washington. “Telling the story of their country’s civil war has increasingly made Syrian journalists vulnerable to both direct attacks and crossfire.”

Al-Asfar, 19, had worked for Al-Jazeera Arabic since March 2015, according to the channel. He was killed in shelling by government forces in the Manshiya neighborhood of Daraa city, according to the report citing Al-Jazeera correspondent Omar Al-Hourani.

A spokesman for Al-Jazeera, when reached by CPJ, could not say whether the cameraman was deliberately targeted or if it he was hit by stray fire.

Al-Asfar was killed the day after a coalition of rebel brigades launched a major offensive to gain full control of Daraa, where territory is currently split between the rebels and the regime. The BBC reported that the assault began in Manshiya. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that at least 27 rebel fighters and 20 pro-government forces and militiamen were killed in the first day of the offensive.

In December 2014, Mahran al-Deeri, a correspondent for Al-Jazeera’s Arabic website, was killed in a car crash in Daraa province, which occurred when he turned his headlights off to avoid being targeted by government fire. Al-Deeri was in the province to cover clashes between rebel and government forces.

Syria is the world’s deadliest country for journalists for the third year in a row, according to CPJ research. At least 84 journalists have been killed since 2011 while covering the conflict in the country, CPJ research shows.

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