Daraa-based reporter is second journalist to be killed this year in Syria
Well-known local reporter Atef Al Saidi was fatally shot by a sniper while covering clashes with militants linked to Islamic State in the city of Daraa, in southern Syria. He is the second journalist to be killed in the course of their work this year in Syria.
“Few journalists chose to stay on in Daraa to keep reporting but Atef Al Saidi was one of them,” said Jonathan Dagher, head of the Middle East desk at Reporters Without Borders (RSF). “We deplore the death of this courageous reporter who had been covering the Syrian revolution since the first day. The deliberate killing of journalists cannot go unpunished. We call for all possible light to be shed on this abominable crime.”
Al Saidi, 45, had been reporting on a resurgence of fighting between Islamic State-linked groups and various local factions that have been incorporated into the Syrian army, supported by a formerly Russian-backed brigade.
In the course of covering clashes on 5 November in Tariq El Sedd, a neighbourhood where Islamic State-linked groups are based, Al Saidi was hit in the waist by shots fired by a sniper when he went to help a man who had been wounded. The reporter died on the operating table the next day.
Al Saidi was well known for his reporting in Daraa province, regarded as the cradle of the Syrian revolution. He began working as a journalist during the initial “Arab Spring” protests in Syria in 2011, initially as a reporter for the Syrian satellite TV channel Al-Jisr and later as its Daraa bureau chief. Of late, he had been freelancing for various local media outlets including Television Syria and the Shahid Media Foundation.
On 1 November, just four days before he was shot, Al Saidi was hosting family members at his home in Muzayrib, 10 km northwest of the city, for a funeral when two gunmen tried to shoot him, in what he regarded as a murder attempt orchestrated by Islamic State. Like many Syrian media professionals, he often received death threats in connection with his journalism.
Journalists and media workers have frequently been the victims of arrest, abduction, torture and murder by the various parties involved in Syria’s civil war, including President Bashar al-Assad’s government. For the most part, these crimes remain unpunished.
This year’s first media fatality in Syria was Ahmed El-Nasser, a photographer who was killed while covering clashes with Islamic State fighters in the northeastern city of Al-Hasakah on 21 January. Since 2016, 64 journalists have been killed in Syria, which is ranked 171st out of 180 countries in RSF's 2022 World Press Freedom Index.