On November 21, 2022, relatives mourn over the caskets of 11 people killed in Turkish airstrikes during their funeral in Derik in northeastern Syria. Hawar News Agency reporter Essam Abdullah was among those killed. (AFP/Gihad Darwish)

CPJ calls on Turkish authorities to investigate airstrikes that killed Hawar News Agency reporter

Washington, D.C., November 22, 2022—Committee to Protect Journalists on Tuesday called on Turkish authorities to immediately conduct a full and transparent investigation into whether Hawar News Agency (ANHA) reporter Essam Abdullah and other civilians were targeted during Turkish airstrikes in northern Syria.

Abdullah was killed and Mohammed Jarada, reporter of Sterk TV, was injured during the Turkish airstrikes on November 20, according to an ANHA executive and Jarada, who both spoke to CPJ by phone, and news reports.

ANHA is a news agency affiliated with the Kurdish administration of northeast Syria and broadcasts in six different languages.

“Turkish authorities must immediately conduct a full and transparent investigation on whether Hawar News Agency (ANHA) reporter Essam Abdullah and other journalists were targeted during Turkish airstrikes in the region,” said Sherif Mansour, CPJ Middle East and North Africa program coordinator. “Journalists are civilians and should be protected while doing their jobs.”

The Turkish strikes on Kurdish militant bases in northern Syria and northern Iraq left dozens—including at least 11 civiliansdead a week after a deadly bombing on an Istanbul street. Turkish authorities blamed the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Syrian People’s Protection Units (YPG) for the Istanbul attack; both groups have denied the charge.

According to an ANHA report, Abdullah headed toward a bombed area in the village of Tqil Baqil in the northeastern Syrian city of Derik after the first round of airstrikes. He was killed while reporting there when Turkish aircraft bombed the area again.

Mustafa Allua, head of ANHA, told CPJ by phone that the strikes occurred at 1:10 a.m. on November 20. “Essam told me that he will go to the targeted village to cover because there are civilian casualties. I agreed,” Allua said.  

“I was in contact with Essam until 2 a.m. We called him several times but were useless,” Allua said. “(W)e realized he was killed in the second airstrike.” Allua added that Abdullah’s body had been found with his camera burned.

Sterk TV’s Jarada was wounded in the northern Syrian city of Kobani, the reporter told CPJ by phone. Around 9 a.m. on November 20, the reporter went with two other journalists to cover the bombing of a hospital when another round of bombs hit the hospital. “I was injured in the head,” Jarada said, adding that he was hit by debris and his journalist colleagues took him to another hospital. “I am feeling good now,” Jarada said.

Sterk TV, which is affiliated with the PKK, published video of the airstrike on the hospital and Jarada being taken to another hospital.

In a statement, the Kurdish-led de facto regional government in the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria, condemned the killing and injuring of the two journalists, saying it considered the airstrikes “the twelfth violation against journalists in North and East Syria by Turkey.”

CPJ contacted Haval Jwan, co-chair of the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria’s information department, for comment via WhatsApp but didn’t get any responses.

Editor’s note: The fifth paragraph of this report has been updated to correct the name of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party.