Khaled al-Khateb, a 25-year-old freelance reporter for the Russian-government-funded broadcaster RT Arabic, was killed on July 30, 2017, by a rocket fired by fighters from the Islamic State group as he traveled in a Syrian Army convoy near the village of Sukhna in eastern Homs province, RT Arabic reported. 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.
In an email to CPJ, RT said that al-Khateb had started working for the channel as an on-air reporter at the end of April 2017, and was part of the channel’s team covering the Syrian military’s battles against the Islamic State group in Homs province. Al-Khateb also interviewed family members of victims of the country’s ongoing conflict, as well as refugees fleeing fighting in Raqqa and elsewhere in Syria.
The Russian-government-funded website Sputnik also reported that al-Khateb 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.
The RT Arabic employee told CPJ that Al-Khateb’s colleagues in Damascus described him as eager to pursue new stories, even if they were potentially dangerous or if there was little time to plan beforehand. Though he usually traveled with a cameraman and reported on-air, al-Khateb also liked shooting video himself in order to experiment with new techniques, the employee added.
Al-Khateb was born in the town of Salamiyah in neighboring Hama province, the employee said.