Middle East

Citizen journalist killed in Syrian 'Bermuda Triangle'

BEIRUT: A citizen journalist who used the name Abu Hassan to report from the central Syrian city of Hama was burnt to death after regime forces targeted his home in an assault, an activist told AFP on Thursday.

International media freedom watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF), meanwhile, warned of the perils facing media workers in the "Bermuda Triangle" of the Syrian conflict, pointing a finger of blame at both the regime and rebels.

An army assault on the Arbaeen district of Hama -- one of the main arenas of the country's anti-regime revolt -- on Wednesday left 16 people dead, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

"The army shelled and gunned its way into the Arbaeen district and set fire to a house there," the Britain-based watchdog said.

According to fellow media activist Abu Ghazi, the house belonged to Abu Hassan, a 27-year-old whose real name was Abdel Karim al-Oqda. Amateur video posted by activists showed four badly burnt bodies laid out on the ground.

"Abu Hassan was at his house with three of his friends," said Abu Ghazi, charging the army had targeted the home. "They knew very well who he was. The whole of Hama knew how much of the revolution he had filmed."

Abu Ghazi paid tribute to his fallen colleague.

"Abu Hassan was one of the bravest people I have ever met," he said. "He sacrificed his life to show the world what is happening in Syria."

Abu Hassan's death was the latest in a string of killings and kidnappings of citizen and professional journalists in Syria since the outbreak of the revolt in March 2011.

RSF has previously condemned the killing of 10 professional media workers and 31 citizen journalists.

On Thursday, it denounced the continued disappearance of two journalists working for US-funded Al-Hurra TV, who went missing in the northern city of Aleppo a month ago.

"Syria's cities have become a 'Bermuda Triangle' for journalists," RSF said. "Telling lies in wartime is not new ... but this is like getting facts from a black hole."

The watchdog called on President Bashar Assad's regime as well as the rebel Free Syrian Army "to realize that making journalists disappear in order to hide what is going on serves no purpose.

"It just sheds an even harsher light on all the disappearances of men, women and children that are taking place."

With tight official curbs on journalists working in Syria, many media outlets have relied to a great degree on accounts of citizen journalists and activists to report on violence in the war-torn country.

In one of his videos, Abu Hassan is seen explaining why he left his job as a construction worker to take up filming. "I want to expose the crimes that the regime is carrying out ... I will film until my last breath," he says.





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