Beirut, June 21, 2019 -- The Committee to Protect Journalists today condemned the killing of Syrian photojournalist Amjad Hassan Bakir and urged all the parties to the ongoing Syrian conflict to guarantee the safety of civilians, including journalists.
On June 18, in the northwestern Syrian town of Kafr Houd, in Idlib governate, a plane-fired missile hit a truck containing fighters from the Free Idlib Army, an opposition group, and Bakir, a freelance photojournalist and cameraman who was embedded with the group, killing Bakir and at least ten fighters, according to Hazem Bakir, the journalist's cousin, who spoke with CPJ via messaging app, news reports, and a report from the Syrian Journalists' Association, a France-based press freedom organization.
"He was on a pick-up truck with soldiers who had taken part in the offensive on Kafr Houd when the car was hit by a missile fired by al-Assad troops," Hazem Bakir said, citing conversations he had with the journalist's colleagues who were at the scene.
"Scores of journalists have been killed covering the Syrian conflict. Amjad Hassan Bakir is the latest name on a wretched list of reporters who paid the ultimate price for doing their work," said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Representative Ignacio Miguel Delgado. "With the offensive underway by pro-Assad forces to retake Idlib, all sides to the conflict must do their utmost to allow journalists to report safely."
Obada al-Fadl, director of the pro-opposition Idlib Media Center, told CPJ via messaging app that the truck was hit by a thermal-guided missile fired from a plane. The Syrian and Russian governments have escalated their bombing campaign in the region in recent months, and other nations are not involved in air missions there, according to news reports.
"According to eyewitnesses, he was killed instantly. The Syrian Army doesn't make any differences between soldiers, journalists, or civilians. They are all at risk," al-Fadl said.
Bakir reported on events in his hometown Saraqib, uploading videos to YouTube for use by the local Facebook news page Saraqib al-Hadath, where he covered airstrikes and bombings by pro-Assad forces, the Al-Qaeda offshoot Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, and the imprisonment of the leader of the Turkish-backed opposition faction Ahrar al-Sham.
Although news reports and the Syrian Journalists Association report said that Bakir was employed as a photographer by the Free Idlib Army, al-Fadl and Hazim Bakir denied this and said that Bakir was an independent freelance photojournalist.
At least three journalists were injured while covering clashes between the Syrian Army and opposition forces in northern Syria in late May, as CPJ reported at the time.
CPJ research shows that at least 127 journalists have been killed covering the Syrian conflict since 2011.
[Editor's Note: This article has been updated in seventh paragraph to correct the spelling of Saraqib al-Hadath.]