Unknown gunmen killed radio host Raed Fares, founder and director of the independent radio station Radio Fresh and the Kafranbel Media Center, and his colleague Hamoud al-Jnaid, a reporter and photographer for Radio Fresh, as the journalists were on their way to cover a protest in Kafranbel on November 23, 2018 according to news reports, the Syrian Journalists Association, the journalists’ employer, and the regional press freedom group Skeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom.
Ali Dandoush, a journalist and photographer for Radio Fresh who was in the car with Fares and al-Jnaid when they were gunned down, told CPJ that they had left the radio station in eastern Kafranbel and, after driving 100 meters, they passed a silver van with tinted windows.
"The van followed us and when we were near the house of a relative of Fares, the van came closer and stopped about two meters to our left. The gunmen subsequently opened fire with their machine guns at us. Three of them got out and shot us again when Fares and al-Jnaid were trying to get out of the car and then they left. I was sitting in the back seat of the car and miraculously wasn’t injured, but I saw three attackers. Their faces were not covered, but I didn’t know them,” Dandoush told CPJ.
The journalist said that al-Jnaid died immediately of his injuries and Fares was taken to the Kafranbel hospital where he died shortly afterward.
Dandoush said that the radio station had been receiving threats in the past two months from armed groups, including the Al-Nusra Front.
As of late November 2018, no group had claimed responsibility for the attack.
Fares was an activist as well as a journalist. He founded Radio Fresh in 2013 and was also the director of the Union of Revolutionary Bureaus–an umbrella group of civil society organizations in Kafranbel. The journalist previously survived an assassination attempt in January 2014, by men whom he identified at the time as being part of the militant group Islamic State, according to a New York Times report. He was known for his witty protest banners and for creatively defying demands from armed Islamist factions, including the Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Nusra Front (currently known as Hayat Tahrir al-Sham), that Radio Fresh stop playing music on air or get rid of female news readers by instead playing animal sounds or distorting the voices of female news readers to make them sound like robots, according to news reports.
In his last Facebook post–dated October 5, 2018–Fares posted a video of a demonstrations in Kafranbel calling for the downfall of the regime and wrote, "The people of Kafranbel are in Freedom Square and voices are chanting: ‘The people want the downfall of the regime.’ We started this in 2011 and we carry on. Our loyalty to the martyrs and detainees has increased our determination."