Press Release: The Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression condemns the assassination of the journalist Hussein Khattab and calls for strict measures that protect journalists and the immediate prosecution of the perpetrators of the crime

On Saturday, December 12th, unidentified persons assassinated the press reporter Hussein Khattab in the city of Al-Bab while he was preparing a video report for the Turkish Radio and Television Corporation TRT Arabic on the spread of the Corona virus in the region. Two masked persons on a motorcycle shot him in the cemetery area of Al-Bab.

Hussein Khattab was born in 1983 in al-Safirah, in the countryside of Aleppo. As a former student in the Faculty of Media, he had worked for several local media agencies and started his work as an activist in 2011. Afterwards, he worked as a reporter for the Turkish TV channel “TRT Arabi”. He had also been the director of the al-Safirah Media Center since its establishment in 2011 as well as a member of the executive office of the Media Union of Aleppo and its countryside since January 2020.

Moreover, several sources report that Khattab had previously been subjected to an assassination attempt via an explosive device in front of his office in the city of Al-Bab. In addition, gunshots in the air were used to intimidate him. This happened while he was filming a video report last September in a camp near the area of the Tahrine burners, as he refused to characterize one of the local authorities as an official entity. Khattab filed a report with the security authorities in Qabasin against specific people residing in the camp. Due to the lack of response of the local de facto authorities and as a result of the threats, he was forced to change his place of residence, according to what he stated on his Facebook page.

The assassination of Khattab while carrying out his work is the result of the failure of the local authorities in the areas under the control of the National Army, which is backed by the Turkish army, to take any safety measures that protect journalists. Indeed, Khattab was detained by ISIS in 2015 and was subjected to threats from other local parties, yet his complaint did not receive due attention from local authorities.

In addition to working in dangerous conditions as a result of military operations and bombing with various types of weapons, journalists in Syria suffer from stressful security conditions and significant restrictions on their work by all parties to the conflict. Indeed, arrests and enforced disappearances as well as fabricated charges against journalists continuously occur.

The Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM) calls on all parties to the conflict and the de-facto authorities throughout Syria to shoulder their responsibilities for the safety of civilians residing in their areas of control, especially activists and journalists, in accordance with the Common Article 3 of the Geneva Convention of 1984 and the relevant international treaties.  SCM also calls on them to impose the necessary measures to ensure freedom of journalistic work and the safety of press personnel, prosecute perpetrators of the crime, and hold accountable those responsible for neglecting previously submitted complaints.