Monday, March 10, 2014

Syria: Toronto-Based Freelance Journalist Killed in Aleppo, 27 Journalists Killed Since 2011

According to AFP, Toronto-based Ali Moustafa, 29, a Canadian freelance photographer,  was killed on Sunday (March 9) alongside seven other people after Syrian government aircraft dropped two high-explosive-laden containers in the rebel-held Hadariyeh area of Aleppo.

Moustafa's sister, Justina Rosa Botelho, confirmed her 29-year-old brother's death after rebels sent her a photograph of his corpse. Moustafa was born in Toronto, Canada of Pakistani and Portuguese immigrant parents.
Sadly, Moustafa's family was not even aware that Moustafa was in Syria. They were last in contact a week ago, when the Canadian told her that he was in Turkey.

COMMENT: Syria is the world's most dangerous conflict for journalists.   

Since the Syrian uprising began in March 2011, at least 27 journalists have been kidnapped or killed by forces loyal to President Bashar Assad and rebels seeking his overthrow. 

The most vulnerable journalists have been freelancers who do not benefit from the security training and security support provided to full-time journalists.

Moustafa sold photographs to the photo news agencies EPA and SIPA. Representatives of both companies said he had only worked with them briefly.

Barrel bombs dropped by Syrian military helicopters have been particularly deadly for civilians. The bombs in Aleppo have killed hundreds of people after blowing apart homes, vehicles and shops, and caused thousands to flee their neighborhoods.

In an interview in July 2013, Moustafa told a reporter that he first traveled to Syria in March 2013 after travelling to Israel, the Palestinian Territories and Egypt. 

Also Sunday, nearly 130 organizations called for immediate and permanent humanitarian access to civilians throughout Syria to help relieve the immense suffering caused by the country's civil war.

A UN Security Council resolution last month called on Syria's warring sides to facilitate aid deliveries. The UN says more than 9 million Syrians are in need of humanitarian assistance.

The conflict has killed more than 140,000 people since March 2011.

Although so many freelance journalists are motivated to bring the Syrian civil war, they are at so much greater risk of being seriously injured or killed because of their lack of security-related infrastructure and intelligence designed to minimize their risk exposure.

Even though I have worked in high-risk countries most of my life, if I were working as a freelance journalist in Syria, I would seriously reevaluate my decision given the fact that more journalists have been killed in Syria than any other conflict zone.