The abduction of three foreign journalists near Aleppo for 12 hours on 22 January has reinforced Reporters Without Borders’ concern about abductions of both foreign and Syrian journalists in the course of Syria’s ongoing armed conflict.
A total of four foreign journalists are currently being held by abductors, or are missing and possibly held captive.
Reporters Without Borders urges their captors to release them and reminds all parties to the conflict that, under international law, they should not target journalists. It also calls on the Syrian authorities to release the 36 journalists and citizen-journalists they are currently holding.
The three journalists abducted on 22 January were Mexican reporter Témoris Grecko, Hungarian reporter Balint Szlanko and Spanish photographer Andoni Lubaki.
Together with a driver-interpreter and a bodyguard, they were captured by armed members of a criminal gang while heading to the northern town of Al-Ezaa, where fighting had broken out the day before, and were released after 12 hours. Read Szlanko’s account in The Daily Beast.
These are the four foreign journalists who are currently captives or missing:
Austin Tice - US journalist, missing for the past 170 days
A US freelancer who worked for the Washington Post, Al-Jazeera English and McClatchy, Tice went missing while reporting in a Damascus suburb on 13 August. A video showing him held by jihadis was posted online on 26 September. The only sign of life since his disappearance, it gave no indication as to where he is currently being held, exactly who is holding him and what their demands are.
Ankhar Kochneva - Ukrainian journalist, kidnapped for the past 113 days
A Ukrainian journalist who has worked for many Russian news media, especially as an interpreter, Kochneva was kidnapped by a Free Syrian Army faction on 9 October. She was able to confirm by telephone the same day that she had been taken hostage. A video was released on 8 November in which she asked the Ukrainian, Russian and Syrian authorities to agree to her captors’ demands. In a second video posted online by her abductors on 29 November, she said she had worked for the Russian and Syrian intelligence services as a translator. She was almost certainly forced to make this statement.
A communiqué apparently released by her abductors was posted online at the start of December. It said she would be executed if the Ukrainian, Russian and Syrian government had not met their demands by 13 December. There has been no news of her since then.
Bashar Fahmi Al-Kadumi - Jordanian journalist, missing for the past 163 days
A Jordanian reporter working for US-funded Al-Hurra TV, Kadumi went missing in Aleppo on 20 August at the same time as Al-Hurra cameraman Cüneyt Ünal. After Ünal was released, he reported that Kadumi was wounded in the stomach by a shot fired by a Free Syrian Army sniper.
James Foley - US journalist missing for the past 68 days
A US freelancer who works for Agence France-Presse, the GlobalPost news website, US television networks and other media, Foley was kidnapped near Taftanaz, a town in the northwestern province of Idlib on 22 November by four men armed with Kalashnikovs, who subsequently released his driver and his interpreter.
After saying nothing for six weeks, Foley’s family broke their silence on 2 January, appealing publicly to his abductors. “We want Jim to come safely home, or at least we need to speak with him to know he’s okay,” his father, said. “To the people who have Jim, please contact us so we can work together toward his release.”
At the same time, the Syrian authorities are currently holding at least 18 journalists and 18 citizen-journalists.
Five more news providers – a journalist and four citizen-journalists – have meanwhile been killed since mid-January.
The latest was sports journalist Mohamed Abd Al-Rahman, who was gunned down along with four family members in his Damascus home on 25 January.
Two news activists, Amjed Al-Sayoufi and Hossein Al-Qadri, were killed by a missile on 18 January while trying to send reports and videos from a farm near Saqba, a town to the east of Damascus, Reporters Without Borders has learned.
Ahmed Assaad Al-Shahab was executed by government forces when they took his village, in Homs province, on 15 January. They beheaded him and then suspended his body from a tree. Bassem Fawaz Al-Za’bi was fatally shot while covering clashes between government forces and rebels in Tafas, near the southern city of Deraa, on 13 January.
At least 22 journalists and 53 citizen-journalists have been killed in connection with the gathering and dissemination of news and information since the start of the uprising in Syria in March 2011.