BEIRUT

Middle East

Syrian journalist dies of gunshot to head

Lebanese and Syrian activists hold a candle light vigil and Syrian revolution flags in downtown Beirut, Lebanon, Saturday, Dec. 31, 2011, in mourning of Syrians killed since the uprising against President Bashar Assad regime began in March. The banner in Arabic reads: "2012 Syria is free." (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)

BEIRUT: Syrian journalist Shukri Ahmad Ratib Abu Burghul died Monday in a Damascus hospital from wounds sustained from a gunshot wound to the head.

The 55-year-old journalist had just arrived at his home in the Damascus suburb of Darya after hosting his weekly radio program on Radio Damascus.

According to the Paris-based media watchdog group Reporters Without Borders (RSF), “gunmen deliberately shot Burghul in the face, beneath the eye.” He was then rushed to the hospital.

“Whoever the killer is, this is a bad sign and a new stage for [violence against journalists] in Syria,” Fadi Aho, a journalist with the Syrian satellite station Orient News told The Daily Star.

Burghul began his work as a journalist in 1980, when he began working for the government newspaper Al-Thawra (The Revolution), where he became deputy director of its censorship department. He also hosted programs on Radio Damascus.

Burghul’s murder followed the fatal shootings of cameraman Ferzat Jarban on Nov. 20, and citizen journalist Basil Al-Sayed on Dec. 29, both of whom were killed in the restive city of Homs.

RSF says that it is urging the Arab League observers to “go to the scene of the shooting to conduct an investigation.”

The non-governmental organization adds: “In the absence any concrete response from the Arab League’s observers to these requests, Reporters Without Borders questions the effectiveness of their mission and fears that it is a sham that will just legitimize the Syrian government’s repression.”

With foreign journalists largely banned from Syria, local media has been working under severe restrictions. Most news stations have had to rely on them as well as citizen journalists for coverage of the country’s protest movement.

Since the outbreak of Syria’s popular uprising, which began March 15, the United Nations estimates that more than 5,000 people, mainly civilians, have been killed. The Syrian government claims that the ongoing violence is due to armed gangs.

 

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