Reporters Without Borders is deeply saddened to learn that Ali Shaaban, a cameraman working for the Lebanese TV station Al-Jadeed, was killed yesterday afternoon when the car in which he and two colleagues were travelling came under heavy fire on the border between northern Lebanon and Syria.
“We offer our sincere condolences to Shaaban’s family, friends and colleagues and we firmly condemn this shooting, which appears to have been deliberate,” Reporters Without Borders said. “It is unacceptable that journalists should be the target of such violence. Those responsible for this crime must be brought to justice without delay.”
The other members of the Al-Jadeed crew – Hussein Khreiss and Abed Khayyat – sustained injuries that were not life-threatening. According to Al-Jadeed, the crew was on the Lebanese side of the border near Wadi Khaled at the time of the shooting. Khreiss said that while “the shots came from Syrian territory,” he did not know who fired them. Khayyat said he saw “Syrian soldiers on the other side of the border” fire on their car.
An Al-Jadeed presenter yesterday said: “Hussein Khreiss and Abed Khayyat miraculously escaped death. Their car was targeted without prior warning. It received a hail of bullets. Ali Shaaban was hit by several shots and was unable to get of the vehicle but the other two journalists managed to escape by crawling a long way to get shelter from the shots being fired. After three hours without help, they were finally rescued by Wadi Khaled residents.”
Khreiss said the car “was completely destroyed by the bullets.”
According to the Lebanese daily Al-Liwaa, the three Lebanese journalists encountered a Syrian border patrol shortly before the incident. They exchanged greetings with the Syrian border guards and explained what they were doing, the newspaper said.
Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati confirmed that the crew was on the Lebanese side of the border at the time. Condemning the shooting as “unacceptable,” he asked the Lebanese army to conduct an investigation and called on the Syrian authorities to carry out their own investigation.
The official Syrian news agency Sana said Shaaban was killed during an exchange of shots between Syrian soldiers and rebels trying to infiltrate across the border into Syria. Sana added that there were regular clashes between the Syrian army and “terrorists” in this border region.
Shabaan was buried today in Mayfadoun, in southern Lebanon. Aged 32, he had been about to get married. “He was always ready to risk his life for the sake of his work,” an Al-Jadeed presenter said.
Journalist’s home destroyed by tanks
Reporters Without Borders meanwhile also condemns the Syrian army’s destruction of London-based journalist Moussa Al-Omar’s home in the northern city of Idleb, a region where clashes with rebels and repressive measures by government forces are on the increase.
In a raid on Omar’s family home on 7 April, soldiers seized personal files, computers and the passports of members of his family. Then soldiers drove their tanks into the house, knocking it down.
This was not the first reprisal against Omar, who hosts a programme on UK-based Al-Hiwar TV in which he often interviews Syrian opposition figures. His family home in Damascus was attacked by the security services on 11 August 2011. Such raids are meant to intimidate Syrian journalists based abroad.
Branded as a “conspirator,” Omar is now a marked man for the Assad regime, as are all journalists who continue to cover government violence.