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Journalist killed by sniper during attack by rebels in Syria

(CPJ/IFEX) - New York, September 26, 2012 - Iran's Press TV has reported that one of its correspondents, Maya Naser, was killed today while reporting on twin explosions and ensuing clashes in Damascus. The state-run station also said that its Damascus bureau chief, Hussein Mortada, was wounded in the same sniper fire and attributed both shootings to insurgents.

The Free Syrian Army claimed responsibility for the explosions at the Syrian military headquarters in Damascus, although it issued no immediate statement in regard to the journalists. Press TV blamed "Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar, who provide weapons and militants to kill civilians," for the shootings, according to a statement on its website.

"Journalists are civilians and should not be targeted," said CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney. "These deaths show the terrible price that reporters are paying to bring news of this conflict."

Naser was shot in the neck while reporting on the explosions that were followed by intense fighting between Syrian government forces and the rebel Free Syrian Army, according to news reports and Press TV.

Naser, a Syrian national who lived in Damascus, wrote regularly on his own blog, according to news reports. Naser, who was seen as sympathetic to the Syrian regime, had blamed the war in Syria on the "West and Al-Qaeda" in his blog, news reports said. His latest TV report on the opposition parties meeting in Damascus had aired three days ago, the reports said.

Mortada, a Lebanese national living in Syria who was also bureau chief of Press TV's sister Arabic-language channel Al-Alam, was shot in the back while he and Naser were reporting on the bombings and clashes, according to Press TV and news reports. Mortada is seeking treatment at a Damascus hospital, according to news reports.

At least 22 other journalists have been killed while covering the Syrian conflict since November, including one killed just over the border in Lebanon, making Syria the most dangerous place in the world for journalists, according to CPJ research.

While CPJ research indicates that many of the fatalities in Syria have been at the hands of government forces, an increasing number of attacks against journalists and news outlets seen as pro-government have been attributed to rebel forces. At least three journalists for the pro-government TV station Al-Ikhbariya were kidnapped in August, and one killed in unclear circumstances, according to news reports.

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