Syria: Several Syrian journalists targeted, one killed

After a weekend marked by serious press freedom violations in different parts of Syria, including a photographer’s death in a bombardment in Idlib province, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls for every effort to be made to allow journalists to do their work, regardless of who controls the area where they are operating.

Freelance photographer Homam Al-Asi was killed during an artillery bombardment on 17 July in Sarjah, in the south of Idlib province, while covering rescue operations by members of the White Helmets volunteer organisation in an area hit by an earlier bombardment. A White Helmets photo showed Al-Asi’s body, with blood on his volunteer vest, helmet and camera.

Three journalists – Izzeddin Al-Mala (the editor of the newspaper Kurdistan), Barzan Layani (a reporter for ARK TV, a local station) and Mohamed Saleh (a former Kurdistan TV reporter) –were arrested the same day by People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Qamishli, a city in the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria .

The previous day, 16 July, masked men stabbed and robbed the cartoonist Hadeel Ismail near her workplace in Azaz, a town in government-controlled Aleppo province. According to the Syrian Press Centre, for which she works, she was threatened a few weeks ago over her cartoons of Nasr Hariri, the former head of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces and the High Negotiations Committee.

“A death, an attack and three arrests – these serious press freedom violations show that Syria continues to be a dangerous country for journalists wherever they are and whatever the forces present there,” said Sabrina Bennoui, the head of RSF’s Middle East desk. “The Syrian tragedy has gone on for too long for journalists, who must be able to do their job without being threatened at all times.”

Syria is ranked 173rd out of 180 countries in RSF's 2021 World Press Freedom Index.