Syria: third journalist killed in 2022 and another injured in Turkish airstrikes

News coverage is essential in times of armed conflict and journalists should not be targeted, says Reporters Without Borders (RSF) following Turkey’s airstrikes on Syrian Kurdistan on 20 November, which killed news agency reporter  Îsam Ebdella in Al-Malikiyah (Derik) and injured TV reporter Mohammad Al Jarada in Kobani.

 Îsam Ebdella is the third journalist that Syria has lost this year because of the war,” said Jonathan Dagher, the head of RSF’s Middle East desk. “Journalists are at the front line of this conflict involving many different actors, including Turkey. Our access to information on the ground depends on them and they should be protected at all costs.”

A reporter for Hawar News Agency (ANHA), a local media outlet,  Îsam Ebdella had been covering Syrian Kurdistan since 2013. He was killed by a Turkish airstrike while interviewing residents in Al-Malikiyah, a Kurdish city in northern Syria’s Al-Hasakah governorate that had been the target of an initial airstrike a few hours before.

In a statement reporting the 39-year-old journalist’s death, the regional journalists’ association ANHA reiterated its commitment.

“We are convinced that all of our journalist friends will continue to do their job with passion, and we will continue to uncover the truth, whatever the sacrifices.”

Mohammad Al Jarada, the 24-year-old reporter for Sterk TV, was injured in Kobani, in the northern governorate of Aleppo, 300 km west of Al-Malikiyah. He was hit while conducting a live report outside a closed hospital that had been the target of an airstrike the day before. A video on Twitter shows the journalist and his crew fleeing as a new strike began at the same location right after they began filming. Al Jarada sustained a head injury from shrapnel and was taken to a hospital where he is still being treated for internal bleeding. His condition is stable.

Al Jarada thinks his crew was deliberately targeted. “Their objective was clear,” he told RSF. “The Turks want to target Kurdish journalists in order to cover up the atrocities they are committing in the region. They want to silence the media that show the world what they are doing in Kurdistan.”

Turkey’s defence ministry said it launched the airstrikes in northern Syria and Iraq in order to target the Kurdish groups that Ankara blames for the bombing in Istanbul on 13 November. Some Turkish officials have hailed the airstrikes as a deserved retaliation. Kurdish militant groups have nonetheless denied any involvement in the Istanbul bombing.

After the airstrikes, Syrian Democratic Forces spokesman Farhad Shami tweeted that two villages with a large number of displaced persons had been targeted. He also tweeted that, “11 civilians were martyred, including one journalist, and six were injured.”

Just a week before Ebdella’s death, well-known local reporter Atef Al Saidi was killed while covering clashes between government-backed armed factions and Islamic State in Daraa, in southern Syria. With three journalists killed in 2022, Syria is one of the world’s deadliest countries for media personnel.

A total of 66 journalists have been killed in Syria since 2016 and at least 58 journalists are still classified as imprisoned, held hostage or missing in connection with the civil war that began with an uprising in 2011.

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