The International Press Institute (IPI) today condemned the continued attacks against citizen reporters in Syria by forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad.

On May 27, three citizen reporters of the Shaam News Network were killed by security forces in the Al-Khalidiya neighborhood in Homs, according to Massoud Akko of the Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM). Ammar Mohammed Suhail Zadeh, the network’s director, Ahmed Adnan Al-Ashlaq, engineer and media activist, and Lorance Fahmee Al-Noaimi, a citizen journalist and photographer, lost their lives in the attack, Akko said in an emailed statement.

The next day, 28-year-old filmmaker Basel Shihada was killed by a sniper in Bab Sibaa, a neighborhood in the city of Homs, reports said. Shihada had studied photography in the United States before returning to Syria to cover the anti-government uprisings, according to a report from Reporters Without Borders. Shihada’s assistant and fellow filmmaker, Ahmad Al-Assam, was also killed in Bab Sibaa on May 28, the organization said.

The trial of eight journalists and human rights defenders who were arrested in a raid on the SCM on Feb. 16 was set to continue on May 29, but was postponed until June 25 because Air Force Intelligence (AFI) did not allow SCM Director Mazen Darwish to appear in court as a witness, Akko told IPI. The accused are charged with “having an illegal recording with a view to distribute banned publications,” and with “having illegal recordings with a view to incite demonstrations,” according to the SCM.

Darwish was among the sixteen people arrested in February, but has been incommunicado since then, as have Hussein Ghrer, Abd Rahman Al Hamada, Hani Zateni or Mansour Al Omarie, who are feared to be at serious risk of torture.

Citizen reporter Mohammed Abdelmawla Al-Hariri was sentenced to death on May 18 for “high treason and contacts with foreign parties,” international press freedom groups reported. Al-Hariri was arrested on Apr. 16 for an interview with the Al Jazeera network regarding the situation in his hometown, Deraa, in southwest Syria. According to a report issued by the Beirut-based SKeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom, Al-Hariri was severely tortured and partially paralyzed.

“We are appalled by the crimes that have been committed not only against press freedom but against the dignity and humanity of journalists and citizen reporters in Syria,” said IPI Deputy Director Anthony Mills. “We call on President Bashar Al Assad and the Syrian authorities to free all journalists and citizen reporters, cease using torture, and to ensure that those covering the conflict be afforded all the protections granted them under international law.”

According to the IPI Death Watch, at least 17 citizen reporters and journalists have been killed in Syria in 2012, making it by far the deadliest country in the world for journalists this year.