Syrian government troops are targeting media centres and news providers, Reporters Without Borders has warned after the killing of a citizen journalist and the destruction of premises belonging to two media centres within a week.
The journalism advocacy group on Wednesday also said that there has been an increase in abductions of news providers by armed groups in and around the city of Aleppo since the start of November.
Syria: Too dangerous to cover?
At least five Syrian citizen journalists have been kidnapped in the past three weeks, Reporters Without Borders said.
On Tuesday, Mohamed Ahmed Taysir Bellou, the editor of the opposition Al-Shahba TV and a reporter for Shahba Press Agency, was shot dead by a sniper while covering clashes between President Bashar al-Assad’s troops and rebels in Aleppo’s Lairmoon district.
The army also bombarded the premises of the Aleppo News Network and the Aleppo Media Centre “within the space of 48 hours”, Reporters Without Borders said.
The organisation also said that more than 20 Syrian news providers were being held hostage by armed groups, while a total of 16 foreign journalists were detained, held hostage or missing.
“The increased pace of abductions is extremely disturbing,” Reporters Without Borders said.
In Damascus, independent journalist Omar Al-Shaar was kidnapped from his home in the southwestern suburb of Jaramana two weeks ago by government intelligence officials, the organisation said.
Shaar is a professional journalist and the editor of the the English-language section of the independent DP-Press News website since 2011.
Reporters Without Borders also noted that Syrian news providers were fleeing the country “in large numbers” due to the threat posed by the al-Qaeda-affiliated Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, a group operating in rebel-held areas.
The organisation said more than ten media workers had sought refuge in neighbouring Turkey since the beginning of November.
“The only media that the [Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant] tolerates are those that publish or broadcast the information or communiques approved by their emirs (commanders). In its view, all other media must be silenced and their employees must be killed,” the organisation said.
Syria has become the most dangerous place for journalists, photographers and video journalists to work with at least 50 reporters killed since the start of the war, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.
In 2011, Syria was ranked the eighth most dangerous country in the world for journalists with two reporters killed.
In 2012, conditions deteriorated and Syria became easily the most hazardous country for the media, with 31 journalists killed in combat, or targeted by either government or opposition forces.
This year, 17 journalists have been killed so far.