Mustafa Abdul Hassa, a 28-year old former correspondent for Shaam News Network, was executed by Islamic State militants, his former employer confirmed to the Committee to Protect Journalists, following the release of a video showing his murder. The video also shows the killing of four other Syrian journalists and media workers.
The Islamic State group released a 15-minute video on June 25, 2016, showing the murder of five Syrians accused of working with media and nongovernmental organizations in Deir al-Zour, Syria. The 15-minute video, entitled “Inspiration of Satan,” is marked has having been produced by the local media branch of the Islamic State group in Deir al-Zour. The video, which CPJ reviewed, shows the five men confessing, apparently under duress, to collaborating with various media outlets and nongovernmental organizations. The men also perform re-enactments of their alleged reporting.
Abdul Hassa, known as “Steve” among his friends, contributed to Shaam News Network (SNN) before the entrance of the Islamic State group into Deir al-Zour province, the outlet reported. Videos posted on various YouTube channels in 2012 show Abdul Hassa giving interviews to Al-Arabiya and Syria al-Ghad TV channels as a SNN correspondent on the latest violations committed by Assad forces in Deir al-Zour. The All4Syria news website also reported that he founded a Facebook page called the “Deir al-Zour Mirror,” but CPJ was unable to access the page in July 2016.
Militants from the Islamic State group abducted Abdul Hassa after he refused to pledge allegiance to the group, Abdul Hassa’s childhood friend, Maher al-Ghadir, wrote in an article published by the Syrian news website Fresh in December 2015. According to News Deeply, the group forced all journalists to pledge allegiance and to agree to restrictions on their work as journalists.
The exact date of Abdul Hassa’s kidnapping is unclear, but other victims in the video were kidnapped in early October 2015, according to their families and colleagues. Abu Abdul Rahman, a producer for Free Deir al-Zour Radio, which is opposed to the Syrian government and the Islamic State group, told CPJ that a senior Egyptian figure in the Islamic State group arrived in Deir al-Zour in October 2015 and imposed even greater restrictions on journalists.
The exact date of Abdul Hassa’s death is unclear. In December 2015, several Syrian opposition news websites reported that four journalists, including Abdul Hassa, had been executed by the militant group in Deir al-Zour. Some of those reports cited causes of death different than those depicted in the video.
Abdul Hassa says in the video that he worked as an independent journalist after the Islamic State group arrived in Deir al-Zour and sent photographs and information concerning military movements to Human Rights Watch. The video then apparently shows him being killed by an explosive device placed in a camera around his neck.
Human Rights Watch said in a June 27, 2016, statement that it was unaware of Abdul Hassa’s ever having worked for the organization, and said it had never employed anyone from areas controlled by the Islamic State group.