Syrian media activist wins Reporters Without Borders award

Syrian media activist Hadi Abdallah has won a prestigious international reporting award for covering his country's war from its shattered, opposition-held areas. Abdallah, who publishes on social media networks such as Facebook and Telegram, is known for his harrowing, on-the-spot reporting about government airstrikes and artillery attacks.

He is often at the scene before the dust settles, despite the threat of so-called "double tap" attacks - follow-up strikes that target the rescuers responding to the initial attacks. Dozens of media activists have died covering Syria's war.

"This prize honours the Syrian journalists who have offered their lives in order to convey the truth to the people," Abdallah said in remarks to journalists.

Abdallah was wounded in an apparent attempt on his life last June by a bomb planted outside his apartment building that killed his cameraman, Khaled al-Issa.

Abdallah has travelled to some of the war's fiercest fronts with rebel factions. His detractors say his ease with the groups is evidence of his affiliation with al-Qaida, an accusation commonly levelled by government supporters against opposition-minded Syrians.

But Abdallah is unapologetic about his association with "revolutionaries" fighting to topple President Bashar Assad.

"I warn that if the international community continues to fail us, the area will be on fire. If the Nusra Front and al-Qaida offer us help we will take it," he said after the government seized the rebel stronghold of Qusair, in his home province of Homs, in 2013.

The group formerly known as the Nusra Front, which was al-Qaida's affiliate in Syria, detained Abdallah for several hours last January in the rebel-held province of Idlib on the charge of broadcasting music on the radio.

Abdallah communicates often with foreign journalists, who rarely travel to Syria's opposition areas because of security concerns, particularly after kidnappings picked up in 2014. Reporters will check his reports against other sources.

"I consider getting this prize a victory for the media of the Syrian revolution against the media of Assad and his allies," he told the AP on Tuesday.

Reporters Without Borders' Freedom Prize was awarded to Syrian journalist Zaina Erhaim last year. Abdallah will not be attending the ceremony, to be held later Tuesday in Strasbourg. He says the Assad government has flagged his passport with Interpol, making it impossible for him to travel internationally. Erhaim also could not attend her ceremony.    (AP)

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