Among the roughly 300 killed during intense fighting in Aleppo was Molhem Barakat, a Reuters photographer. Barakat's death last Friday, in the indiscriminate barrage on Aleppo that the White House criticized Monday, has raised serious questions about Reuters' hiring practice.
Hannah Lucinda Smith, a British freelance photojournalist and acquaintance of Barakat, writes that Barakat tried to join Al Qaeda.
According to Smith, Barakat wanted to join the terrorist organization for the 11,000 Syrian lira monthly salary. "It is a pitiful wage for a potential suicide bomber, but enough to tempt an eighteen-year-old stuck in a war zone with no job."
Barakat reportedly told Smith the terrorist group probably wouldn't accept him, saying "I'm too liberal. But maybe they’ll think I’ll be useful to them, because I can still go into regime areas so I could transport weapons there for them.”
Barakat was roughly 17 when he started working for Reuters in battle zones, according to an Honest Reporting article on Monday. His age was not included in the Reuters report of his death.
Smith wrote that she had refused Barakat's requests to work with her, because she "didn’t want the responsibility of an eager seventeen year old with no war zone training and little experience on my shoulders."
After being hired by Reuters, Barakat was apparently not given any safety gear or training. He was also reportedly paid $100 a day for entering war zones to document for the London-based news agency, which has yet to respond to the revelations.
This isn't the first time Reuters has made questionable judgements. In 2010, the agency apparently cropped photos from the Mavi Marmara flotilla incident to favor the terrorist attackers over the IDF. In 2006, a Reuters cameraman was arrested for encouraging and directing rock attacks on Israelis.
Barakat was killed while covering the fight over Aleppo's Central Prison. The rebels reportedly intended to capture the prison after having seized a hospital located strategically on high ground overlooking the prison.