A well-known Syrian journalist working for a pro-government television channel was killed yesterday in a sniper attack near the country’s border with Lebanon, according to international reports.
Al-Jazeera reported that Yara Abbas, 26, a war correspondent for the al-Ikhbariya television channel, was killed by opposition gunfire in an offensive by forces loyal to President Bashar al Assad. According to the Global Post, pro-government forces were attempting to recapture the area from the opposition near the al-Debaa airport, just north of Qusayr.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a United Kingdom-based pro-opposition group, posted a message on its Facebook page indicating that other members of Abbas’ television crew were also wounded in the attack.
Syrian television said that Abbas had been targeted by “terrorists,” a term that pro-Assad media use to refer to the Free Syrian Army and other opposition forces.
“Colleague Yara Abbas, a correspondent at al-Ikhbariya, was martyred after being shot by terrorists near Al-Dabaa airport on the outskirts of Qusayr,” the state-run SANA news agency said in a statement.
The Los Angeles Times reported that al-Ikhbariya was previously targeted by rebels for its pro-government stance and that in June armed men attacked the station’s former headquarters south of Damascus, killing seven people, kidnapping others and setting the studio on fire.
International Press Institute (IPI) Press Freedom Manager Barbara Trionfi called on all parties to the Syrian conflict to refrain from targeting journalists.
“International humanitarian law, including the Geneva Convention and its Additional Protocols, call for the protection of all journalists who cover an armed conflict, independent of the views expressed in their reports,” she said.
Syria is also the deadliest country for journalists so far this year. According to IPI’s Death Watch, at least 11 journalists have been killed since Jan. 1. Fifty-one journalists in total have been killed in Syria since the country’s crisis began in March 2011. Over that same period, more than 94,000 people have been killed in the conflict, according to the United Nations.
In a separate incident on Friday, a Pakistani journalist in the Bahawalnagar district of the Punjab province was shot dead while working on a crime story, The Express Tribune newspaper reported.
According to reports, Ahmed Ali Joiya, 25, a reporter for several local newspapers and magazines, had been corresponding with local police on a story before he was killed.
Police in Bahawalnagar said that Joiya had received threats from a man known as Maqbool, a criminal in the region, for reporting on his activities. On Friday, Joiya was in a market in Bhangrana when unidentified assailants shot him. He reportedly died on the scene and two street vendors were also injured in the attack.
According to The Express Tribune, Bahawalnagar police said that Joiya had been assisting in an investigation and that they suspected Maqbool to have killed Joiya. Maqbool is reportedly wanted in connection with “more than 150 incidents of murder, robbery and kidnappings across Punjab,” The Express Tribune reported.
Joiya is survived by a wife and two children.
Pakistan is the second-deadliest country for journalists in 2013, with seven killed there so far this year.
Trionfi called on authorities in Pakistan to protect journalists against violence so that they can effectively do their jobs and ensure that crimes against them are not committed with impunity.
“Pakistan is one of five pilot countries where the UN Joint Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity is expected to be implemented,” she said. “We remind the Pakistani authorities that the UN Plan of Action assigns clear responsibilities to member states for investigating crimes against journalists and ensuring an end to impunity in crimes against them.”
In a resolution passed by the IPI General Assembly on May 20, IPI members called “on states to ensure speedy implementation of all necessary measures aimed at stopping violence against journalists, thus allowing them to practice their profession in a secure and independent manner”.