24 Nov 2018

Defiant Syrian radio host shot dead

4:52 pm on 24 November 2018

A prominent Syrian radio journalist has been shot dead by gunmen in the rebel-held Syrian province of Idlib.

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Mourners attend the funeral of Raed Fares and Hammoud al-Jneid in the village of Kafranbel in the northwestern province of Idlib. Photo: AFP

Raed Fares, a well-known Syrian activist, was killed in the north-western town of Kafranbel.

Mr Fares founded Radio Fresh, an independent radio station broadcasting from inside opposition-held areas in the country.

He and his radio station had been targeted by jihadist groups in the past.

Four years ago, when the Islamic State (IS) group had a presence in Idlib province, the station's office was raided by militants.

In 2016, Mr Fares was detained by the Nusra Front, the former al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria.

'Sarcastic gesture'

The Hayat Tahrir al-Sham alliance (HTS), which currently controls most of Idlib province, had ordered Radio Fresh to stop broadcasting music.

The station's response was to play long sequences of other sounds, such as tweeting birds, clucking chickens and bleating goats.

"They tried to force us to stop playing music on air," the 45-year-old former estate agent told the BBC in 2017. "So we started to play animals in the background as a kind of sarcastic gesture against them."

Later, the station began to introduce further defiant sounds including bongs from London's Big Ben clock, ticking sounds, ringing explosions and chanting football fans.

Another group, the now-dissolved Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, once instructed the radio station to take women off the air. Instead of complying, Mr Fares told the BBC's Mike Thomson about his creative solution to get round the issue.

"We simply put their voices through a computer software program which makes them sound like men," he said.

Radio Fresh's Facebook page posted a graphic photo of Mr Fares's body on 23 November, along with an image of the body of Hammoud Juneid, another activist who was shot dead.

A vocal critic of President Bashar al-Assad, Mr Fares described a protest in Kafranbel on 5 October in his final Facebook post.

"The people of Kafranbel are in Huriyah [Freedom] Square and voices are chanting: The people want the downfall of the regime. We started this in 2011 and we are continuing on. Our loyalty to the martyrs and detainees has increased our determination."

News of his death led to an outpouring of grief on social media from activists and international journalists.


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