Smoke billows following a reported Russian airstrike on the countryside of the mostly rebel-held Syrian province of Idlib, on September 20, 2020. A journalist was killed October 26 by a suspected Russian airstrike while covering the training of opposition soldiers near the Idlib city of Kafr Takharim. (Mohammed Al-Rifai/AFP)

Syrian journalist Rasheed Bakr killed in an airstrike in northern Idlib

New York, October 28, 2020 — The Committee to Protect Journalists today condemned the killing of Syrian reporter and cameraman Rasheed Bakr and urged all parties in the Syrian conflict to guarantee the safety of civilians, including journalists.

Bakr, who worked for the pro-opposition news website Al-Mohrar Media Network and the Syria 1 News Agency, was killed in an airstrike while covering the training of soldiers belonging to the Turkish-backed National Front for Liberation, a Syrian opposition coalition, at a training camp in Jabal al-Duwailah, near the northern Idlib city of Kafr Takharim on October 26, according to news reports, Bakr’s employers, and a member of the Al-Mohrar Media Network who spoke to CPJ via email and didn’t disclose his identity.

According to news reports, 20 people, including Bakr, were killed in the airstrike, which the reports said was carried out by Russian warplanes. 

“While the attention of the international community has strayed from the fighting in Syria, the death of Rasheed Bakr is a tragic reminder that Syrian journalists are still working, day after day, to document what happens there, at great risk to their lives,” said CPJ Middle East and North Africa representative Ignacio Miguel Delgado. “We call on the parties to the Syrian conflict to do their utmost to ensure journalists can report safely.”

A member of Al-Mohrar Media Network told CPJ that, a few days earlier, Bakr had pitched a story to them about soldiers belonging to the National Front for Liberation, some of whom were from his hometown Kafr Takharim, and who were undergoing training at a camp near the town. The National Front for Liberation is part of the opposition Syrian National Army.

“He told us he would film the camp and prepare a video report for Al-Mohrar. We agreed to his proposal and he went there to cover the event, but a missile fired from a Russian warplane hit the parade ground in the camp, killing a number of soldiers and also Rasheed. Many others were injured,” he said.

He said Bakr had worked for Al-Mohrar Media Network since its founding in November 2018.

On the days prior to his death, Bakr had been reporting local news in Kafr Takharim, including the opening of a youth center, a protest by local teachers to demand material support, and a joint school festival.

According to news reports, Bakr also worked for the media office of the National Front for Liberation.

Syria is one of the most dangerous places in the world for journalists. At least 137 journalists have been killed covering the Syrian conflict, according to CPJ research.