Photojournalist al-Zintani was killed by a sniper while reporting in Gwersha, a southern district in Benghazi, on June 24. Al-Zintani documented the involvement of the Saiqa (special forces) of the Libyan National Army in the conflict in Libya. He also sold content to local and international networks on a freelance basis.
Al-Zintani was covering an offensive by the Saiqa against Islamist militias at the time of his death, according to his colleagues and news reports. The Saiqa’s media office released a statement announcing the death of seven of its members on June 24, including al-Zintani, who was described as a media professional. Some of the work produced by the photographer, who had an unarmed role in the forces, was used internally by the Saiqa and some was used to promote the group on local channels, according to colleagues of al-Zintani.
After he was hit, al-Zintani was taken to a hospital in Benghazi, where he died later that day from his injuries, Omar Altwati, a freelance producer with whom al-Zintani had worked in the week before his death, told CPJ. According to Altwati and local news reports, the sniper likely belonged to the Islamist militias fighting for territory in and around Benghazi. CPJ was unable to determine if any group took responsibility.
The journalist had worked for multiple Libyan outlets, including al-Zintan TV, which released a statement paying tribute to him after his death. In the weeks before his death, he had worked closely with Altwati, a freelancer who produces video and images for Sky News Arabia TV, which is part-owned by British Sky Broadcasting and has headquarters in Abu Dhabi. A spokesperson for Sky News Arabia TV told CPJ that it did not deal directly with al-Zintani.
Altwati, the producer, told CPJ that al-Zintani had provided him with images of fighting in Gwersha earlier in June and that they communicated on June 23, the day before al-Zintani was killed. Records of text messages between the two journalists, viewed by CPJ, show that al-Zintani said on June 23 that he would cover any fighting for Altwati in the area in the coming days.
Altwati said he did not hear from al-Zintani again and when he tried to call him on June 24, the photographer’s phone was turned off. Altwati said that another journalist told him al-Zintani had been killed covering a Libyan National Army offensive that day. Altwati told CPJ that he confirmed the death with a military spokesperson, who also said al-Zintani was with a Saiqa unit at the time he was hit.
A YouTube channel in al-Zintani’s name contains videos dating back to 2012, mostly about the fighting in Libya. Videos from the past three months before his death include a report about the Libyan National Army reclaiming a cement factory in Benghazi from Islamist militias, and promotional reports about the Libyan National Army’s air force. The videos are marked as filmed and produced by al-Zintani.
Al-Zintani took up photojournalism in 2011 after the Libyan uprising against Muammar Qaddafi. Brian Conley, director of the U.S.-based company Small World News, which provides training to citizen journalists, told CPJ he met al-Zintani in Libya in 2011 when the journalist was covering fighting in the town of Zintan. He said that they met again in 2012 at a video production workshop that Conley ran in Benghazi. Conley said he helped al-Zintani sell content to U.S. television networks. The two later discussed collaborating on running workshops for young journalists in Libya, but the project never materialized, Conley said.
Benghazi has been the scene of fierce fighting in 2016 between units belonging to the internationally recognized Libyan National Army, led by General Khalifa Haftar, and Islamist militias, some with affiliations to the militant group, Islamic State.