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Syria - State TV cameraman gunned down in Damascus

Reporters Without Borders - Mon, 24 Dec 2012 14:56 GMT
Author: Reporters Without Borders
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Read in Arabic (باÙ&${esc.hash}132;عربÙ&${esc.hash}138;Ø©) Syrian state TV reported on 22 December that one of its cameramen, Haydar Al-Soumoudi, was gunned down by "rebels" outside his home in the west Damascus suburb of Kafar Souseh the previous evening. "Violence against news providers is becoming more and more widespread and is targeting both pro-government and pro-opposition journalists and citizen-journalists," Reporters Without Borders said. "We firmly condemn this latest murder and the increasingly heavy toll that coverage of this war is taking on journalists. "While we are not yet able to take a position on who was responsible for Al-Soumoudi's death, we call on all those involved in this conflict to respect the work and physical integrity of all journalists." According to the government news agency Sana, gunmen were waiting outside Al-Soumoudi's home and shot him several times when he appeared. Born in Damascus in 1967, he worked for the state-owned daily Al-Thaoura before joining the state TV broadcaster in 1998. His death brings to 18 the number of professional journalists killed in connection with their work in Syria in 2012. The annual freedom of information roundup that Reporters Without Borders published last week referred to Syria as a "cemetery for news providers." Targeted killings and forced confessions condemned Read in Arabic (باÙ&${esc.hash}132;عربÙ&${esc.hash}138;Ø©) Syria's state-owned national television reports that Naji Assaad, a retired journalist who continued to work for the government daily Tishreen, was killed today outside his home in the south Damascus suburb of Tadamun as he was leaving to go to the newspaper. The TV station described his death as a "terrorist act targeting the nation's lifeblood." In a separate development, Mohamed Al-Khal, a citizen journalist better known as Abu Bilel Al-Diri, was killed during government shelling of the Hamidiya district of the eastern city of Deir Ezzor on 25 November while he was covering clashes between government forces and members of the Free Syrian Army. At least 16 professional journalists and 44 citizen journalists have been killed in connection with their work of gathering and disseminating news and information since the start of the armed conflict in Syria. The citizen journalist Mohamed Qoraytem was killed during shelling of the southwest Damascus neighbourhood of Daraya on 29 November. He was one of the founders of the newspaper Enab Baladi and was a member of the Media Committee of the Days of Freedom (Ayam Al-Huria) group. Qoraytem was arrested in 2003 in connection with his activism. The following three foreign journalists are meanwhile still being held by their abductors or are missing: Ankhar Kochneva, a Ukrainian journalist who has worked for many Russian news media, especially as an interpreter, was kidnapped by a Free Syrian Army faction on 9 October. She was able to confirm by telephone the same day that she had been taken hostage. And then, on 12 and 13 October, she was able to contact NTV, one of the Russian media she has worked for as an interpreter. A video was released on 8 November in which she asked the Ukrainian, Russian and Syrian authorities to agree to her captors' demands. In a second video posted online by her abductors on 29 November, she said she had worked for the Russian and Syrian intelligence services as a translator. She was almost certainly forced to make this statement. Bashar Fahmi Al-Kadumi, a Jordanian reporter working for US-funded Al-Hurra TV, went missing in Aleppo on 20 August at the same time as Al-Hurra cameraman Cüneyt Ã&${esc.hash}156;nal. After Ã&${esc.hash}156;nal was released, he reported that Kadumi was wounded in the stomach by a shot fired by a Free Syrian Army sniper. Austin Tice, a US freelancer who worked for the Washington Post, Al-Jazeera English and McClatchy, went missing while reporting in a Damascus suburb on 13 August. A video showing him held by jihadis was posted online on 26 September. The only sign of life since his disappearance, it gave no indication as to where he is currently being held, exactly who is holding him and what their demands are. His parents gave a news conference in Beirut on 12 November to request his release. Condemning the use of forced confessions that are filmed and then broadcast or posted online, Reporters Without Borders calls for the release of these three foreign journalists and urges the Syrian authorities to free all the Syrian journalists they are currently holding. At least 36 journalists and citizen journalists are currently detained in the regime's jails.

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