Al-Moutaz Bellah Ibrahim

Beats Covered:
Local or Foreign:

Ibrahim, a correspondent for the independent Shaam News Network and a freelance reporter, was killed in Tel Abyad, a Syrian town north of the city of Raqqa, on May 4, according to Shaam and the Beirut-based SKeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom. Ibrahim was kidnapped by the Islamic State militant group (then called Islamic State in Iraq and Sham) in March, two months before his death, according to news reports and local press groups. His family received his body on May 7, 2014.

A loose coalition of rebel forces captured almost the entire city of Raqqa in March 2013, according to news reports. Since then, Islamic State pushed out other rebel groups and began exerting increased control over the city. By the time of Ibrahim’s killing, Raqqa had become the group’s de facto headquarters for the vast terrain it controlled.

Ibrahim had reported widely on the presence of Islamist militants in Raqqa in the months before he was kidnapped. His reports included coverage of Islamist militant groups who he said had imposed taxes on Christians and who he said had prevented aid from being delivered to the city.

As part of his work for Shaam News Network, Ibrahim also appeared on the opposition-based TV channels Syria al-Hur and Syria al-Ghad. He also worked for an online campaign called “Raqqa is being slaughtered silently,” which posts news and photos of events in Raqqa and has criticized the harsh rule imposed by the Islamic State.

Abu Ibrahim Ar-Raqqawi, a Raqqa citizen who runs the campaign, told the Wall Street Journal that Ibrahim was killed because Islamic State militants caught him with material belonging to the campaign.

Ar-Raqqawi told CPJ that he and Ibrahim would meet in secret repeatedly to share news and information for the campaign because Islamic State had placed media restrictions on journalists covering Raqqa.

Islamic State has imposed restrictions on independent voices and journalists, according to CPJ research. Since the group came to power, it has kidnapped many journalists and raided numerous media centers. Islamic State has also ordered journalists and media workers to pledge allegiance to the group, according to the Syrian Journalists Association. As a result, journalists have fled territories controlled by the group, submitted to self-censorship, or continued their work anonymously at great risk.