Pro-government forces in Syria have been deliberately targeting journalists covering the war there, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, which notes that a number of reporters have been injured by suspected pro-government forces in recent days.
"The Syrian government and its allies seem to be intent on not only violating the human rights of the country's people, but also on attacking journalists who cover those violations," said Ignacio Miguel Delgado Culebras, the CPJ's Middle East and North Africa representative. "As long as no one in power in Syria pays the price, this cycle of impunity and violence will continue," he said.
The CPJ notes that in the span of three days, three reporters came under attack while covering airstrikes and clashes in northwestern Syria. The media rights group cited regional press groups, news reports, and Facebook posts and videos from the journalists.
The CPJ says in one incident, journalists came under shelling from pro-government forces in Hama. Those journalists included a Sky News crew and Bilal Abdul Kareem, an American reporter and activist who posted video on social media. The CPJ says that according to Sky News and Abdul Kareem's posts, he was struck in the armpit by a piece of shrapnel. Media reports say he was taken to a hospital in another town.
The team asserts that they were "clearly identified as journalists," according to the CPJ.
Sky News correspondent Alex Crawford says the group's location was pinpointed by a military drone and faced shelling from a tank identified as belonging to pro-government forces, says the CPJ.
Two journalists working for pro-opposition broadcasters also alleged they were targeted by government forces last week. Mustafa al-Abbas and Mustafa al-Khalaf said they were injured by shrapnel. Al Khalaf suffered an eye injury, while al-Abbas took shrapnel to the face and shoulders. In social media footage, al-Khalaf is wearing a jacket marked "Press," according to the CPJ.
Separately, the media rights group also noted that another reporter working for pro-opposition media suffered leg burns in a bombing south of Idlib. The CPJ says 22 journalists have been killed in Syria since 2011.
The group is urging Syria's government to respect the civilian status of journalists covering the war. The CPJ says the Syrian Defense Ministry did not immediately reply to the group's request for comment.