HRD and media activist killed, government found culpable for killing of foreign correspondent

Association

On 23rd November 2018, human rights defender Raed Fares and media activist Hamoud Jneed were shot dead by unknown assailants in Kafranbel, in a rebel-held area near Idlib, northwestern Syria, according to the Gulf Centre for Human Rights. Fares, an activist who also founded the Kafranbel Media Centre, was well-known for his peaceful protests against the war, and for his popular broadcasts on his radio station “Radio fresh". Fares was a popular local protest leader who campaigned for education, democracy, the rights of women and children and an end to the carnage of the war. Fares, 46 years old, leaves behind three sons. His friend Jneed was a media activist and a photographer. A previous assassination attempt on 29th January 2014 was unsuccessful, which Fares survived with two bullet wounds in the arm and shoulder.

Condemning the killing, and the broader attacks on journalists in Syria, CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour said:

"Even as the international spotlight on the Syrian conflict continues to dim, journalists like Raed Fares and Hamoud al-Jnaid continue working, at the gravest possible risk, to inform the global public of the violence and turmoil in their homeland.. We condemn their murder and call on all sides to the conflict to do their utmost to allow journalists to report safely and without fear of retaliation."

Ali Dandoush, a journalist and photographer for Radio Fresh who was in the car with Fares and Jneed when they were gunned down, told CPJ that over the past two months before the murders, they had been receiving threats at their office from armed groups.

Expression

In December 2018, the Committee to Protect Journalists reported that Syrian militant group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham threatened to execute Syrian journalist Amjed Al-Maleh, a Syrian freelance journalist and media activist from the southwestern Syrian city of Madaya whom the group had been holding captive for nearly a year. Al-Maleh has been held by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham since he was taken captive outside his home in Idlib on 13th December 2017, and accused of carrying out media activities against Hayat Tahrir al-Sham. Al-Maleh covered the siege of Madaya by Syrian government troops and the Lebanese Hezbollah, which began in July 2015 and ended in April 2017. Hayat Tahrir al-Sham however denied that they had ordered Al-Maleh’s execution in a letter to Human Rights Watch.

As the world entered 2019, journalists and human rights defenders who were disappeared more than five years ago remain missing. In early January 2019, RSF called for light to be shed on the fate of Amir Hamed, a citizen-journalist and activist who was abducted by gunmen from his home in Derbasiyah, in North-Eastern Syria on 11th January 2014, and has not been seen since. Journalist and human rights lawyer Razan Zaitouneh and three of her colleagues, Samira Khalil, Nazem Hamadi and Wa’el Hamada also remain missing, more than five years after they were disappeared on 9th December 2013.

Sophie Anmuth, the head of RSF’s Middle East desk said:

“We call for all possible light to be shed on the disappearance of Amir Hamed and all the other journalists still missing in Syria.. All of the forces present on the ground are responsible for the fate of the persons detained in the territories they control.”

In a separate development, on 31st January 2019 a U.S. federal court in Washington D.C. found the Syrian government culpable in the 2012 killing of Marie Colvin, a former correspondent for the U.K. newspaper Sunday Times, and ordered the government to pay US$302.5 million to her family. The court found that the Syrian government "discovered that foreign journalists were broadcasting reports from a Media Center in Baba Amr" and "launched an artillery attack against it, for the purpose of killing the journalists inside."

Colvin was killed in 2012 in Homs, Syria, after Syrian forces fired a shell at the building where they were reporting from. French photojournalist Remi Ochlik was also killed in the attack.

CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour said:

"This finding that Syria is responsible for deliberately killing Marie Colvin will not bring her back, but it will send a strong message to authorities worldwide that murdering journalists has consequences."

Journalists in Syria continue to operate under very grave and precarious conditions. The Syria Network for Human Rights documented the killing of 24 media workers, the injury of 28, and the arrest or kidnapping of 31 during the year 2018.