The head of the United Nations agency tasked with defending press freedom today deplored the fatal shooting that killed a Syrian television cameraman in the eastern city of Deir Al-Zour, and called for the release of journalists that have reportedly been kidnapped.
“I condemn the killing of Mohammed al-Ashram,” the Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Irina Bokova, said in a news release. “Journalists must be allowed to carry out their professional duties and I once again call on all the parties involved in the Syrian conflict to respect the civilian status of reporters and media workers.”
Mohammed al-Ashram, who worked for the Syrian television broadcaster Al-Ikhbariya, was reportedly shot and killed on 10 October while covering clashes between Syrian Government forces and opposition forces.
“The number of casualties among professional and citizen journalists in Syria is truly alarming and I urge the parties concerned to do all in their power to improve their safety and respect the basic human right of freedom of expression,” Ms. Bokova added.
She also expressed concern over reports from the Committee to Protect Journalists that several international reporters have gone missing in Syria in recent weeks and are presumed to have been kidnapped, and called on all concerned parties “to do everything they can to secure their return.”
The killing of Mr. al-Ashr brings to 32 the number of journalists killed in Syria this year alone, according to UNESCO.
Overall, more than 20,000 people, mostly civilians, have died in Middle Eastern country since the uprising against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad began some 20 months ago. A further 2.5 million Syrians urgently need humanitarian aid, and over 340,000 have crossed the border to Syria’s neighbouring countries, according to UN estimates.