New York, December 11, 2014–A correspondent working for Al-Jazeera’s Arabic website, Aljazeera.net, was killed Wednesday night while covering clashes between rebel and government forces in Syria’s Daraa province, the outlet reported today. Mahran al-Deeri is the fourth journalist to die covering fighting in and around the village of Sheikh Miskeen in the past three days.
Al-Deeri was killed when his car collided with a vehicle of rebel fighters, Al-Jazeera reported citing the journalist’s family. Al-Deeri had been driving with his headlights off to avoid being targeted by government fire, the report said.
It is not clear if, at the time of the car crash, there was incoming fire that was targeting either Al-Deeri’s car or nearby rebel forces. An Al-Jazeera spokesman, reached for comment by CPJ, said the network could not immediately offer further details.
On Monday, a car carrying an Orient TV crew was hit in the same area by what the station said was a guided missile fired by government forces. The attack killed correspondents Rami Asmi and Yousef el-Dous and cameraman Salem Khalil. The car was not marked as a press vehicle, but Orient News said it was identifiable because it was carrying a large satellite dish that should have been easily visible.
CPJ could not independently verify the claim that a missile directly targeted the car. CPJ research shows that government forces have likely targeted journalists directly in attempt to censor their reporting.
Clashes between rebel and government forces have ensued in Sheikh Miskeen in recent weeks. Last month, Al-Jazeera correspondent Mohammed Nour was shot in the foot while covering clashes in Sheikh Miskeen last month, the station reported.
“It’s left to local journalists to bring the world news of the fighting in Syria, but they are paying a terrible price,” said CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney. “Mahran al-Deeri is the fourth media fatality there in less than a week.”
Al-Deeri, 31, was born in Sheikh Miskeen and studied at Damascus University, Al-Jazeera reported. According to Al-Jazeera and his Facebook profile, al-Deeri used to work for the government news agency, SANA. After the start of the Syrian conflict, he began working as an independent journalist in Daraa province. He joined Al-Jazeera as a freelance journalist in October 2013. Last month, al-Deeri wrote for Al-Jazeera Arabic about the retreat of government forces after rebels captured a strategic position just outside of Sheikh Miskeen.
At least 75 journalists have been killed covering the conflict that has lasted for more than three years, according to CPJ research. The vast majority were local journalists like al-Deeri and the Orient TV crew.