New York, July 31, 2017–The death of Khaled al-Khateb, a Syrian freelance correspondent for the Russian government-funded broadcaster RT’s Arabic-language service, in Homs province yesterday is a tragic reminder of the risks journalists face covering Syria’s conflict, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
RT Arabic reported that al-Khateb, 25, was traveling with a Syrian Army convoy through the village of Sukhna, in eastern Homs province, when he was killed by a rocket the broadcaster said was fired by fighters from the Islamic State group. An employee of RT Arabic, who asked that CPJ not use his name because he was not authorized to speak on behalf of the station, told CPJ that “several” Syrian soldiers were also killed in the attack, and that RT cameraman Muutaz Yaqoub was injured.
“The death of Syrian journalist Khaled al-Khateb and the injury of Muutaz Yaqoub are grim reminders of the dangers journalists face covering the conflict there,” CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour said. “We call on all parties to the conflict to take all possible steps to protect the lives of all civilians, including journalists.”
Al-Khateb began freelance work for RT Arabic in April, the broadcaster reported. The Russian-government-funded website Sputnik also reported that he had previously worked for its Arabic-language service and for the Syrian-government-funded broadcaster Al-Ikhbaria before beginning work with RT. His last piece for RT focused on civilian casualties from the U.S.-led coalition’s bombing campaign in support of a rebel offensive to retake Raqqa from the Islamic State group.
RT head Margarita Simonyan said in a statement that al-Khateb’s death was the first time that one of the network’s journalists had been killed in a conflict zone.
At least 109 journalists have been killed in Syria since fighting began there in 2011, according CPJ research.