Syrian journalist killed in Turkey

New York, April 12, 2016–Syrian journalist Zaher al-Shurqat died today after being shot Sunday in the southern Turkish town of Gaziantep, according to news reports. The Islamic State group claimed responsibility, making this the fourth Syrian journalist it claims to have targeted for murder in Turkey in six months.

“Turkish authorities must urgently demonstrate that killing journalists on the streets of Turkey is unacceptable and will not go unpunished,” CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova said. “We call on security officials to hunt down Zaher al-Shurqat’s killers, bring them to justice, and ensure journalists can work safely throughout the country.”

A masked man on Sunday approached the 36-year-old journalist on a street in Gaziantep, near Turkey’s Syrian border, shot him in the head, and fled the scene, according to press reports. Al-Shurqat was hospitalized Sunday, and remained in critical condition until his death today. News reports said the crime was caught by security camera footage, and that Turkish police were examining the video. The Islamic State group’s Amaq News Agency on Monday claimed the group was responsible and that it targeted Al-Shurqat in retaliation for his work.

Al-Shurqat worked for the Syrian online broadcaster Aleppo Today, where he hosted a show called “Lines of Fire,” which covered the conflict in Syria and especially Aleppo. He also produced reports for a show called “From the trenches: the concept of jihad,” and was a host of a show called “Islamic State in the words of the leadership,” which interviewed leaders of other rebel groups critical of Islamic State.

The Islamic State group has previously claimed responsibility for murdering Syrian journalists Ibrahim Abd al-Qader and Fares Hamadi in Urfa, in southeastern Turkey, on October 30, 2015, and Naji Jerf in Gaziantep on December 27.

Al-Shurqat is also the second Aleppo Today journalist that the Islamic State group claims to have killed.

Turkish media described Al-Shurqat as a former fighter with the Abu Bakr al-Sadiq Brigade rebel group in the northern Syrian town of Al-Bab. Al-Shurqat began working for Aleppo Today after the Islamic State group captured his town in 2013. He moved to Gaziantep in 2015, according to news reports.

Since the beginning of the conflict in Syria, many Syrian journalists have crossed the border into Turkey, where they have started operating independent media outlets from border towns. Journalists have repeatedly told CPJ that they face restrictions on reporting on events inside Turkey and fear the Turkish government is not doing enough to protect them from threats emanating from Syria.