Reporters Without Borders is gravely concerned over the fate of a crew from the pro-government television station al-Ikhbariya and their driver, unaccounted for since their disappearance yesterday after a clash between the Syrian army and rebel forces in the suburbs of Damascus.
Reporter Yarah Saleh, cameraman Abboud Tabarah and his assistant Hatem Abu Yehiah, and driver Housam Imad were accompanying an army unit on an operation in al-Tal. During the evening, the station reported that it had lost contact with the crew, who were on their way back, and with the soldiers guarding them.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported that the journalists had been kidnapped by an unidentified rebel faction.
“If it emerges that the journalists have been taken prisoner by an opposition group, the latter will be answerable for their safety,” the press freedom organization said. “We urge them to identify themselves and to show evidence that their captives are alive and in good health, and to release them immediately.
“We note that those involved in news gathering are protected under Resolution 1738 of the United Nations Security Council. All warring parties must refrain from targeting media workers and citizen journalists.
“Recent brutality towards official and pro-government media organizations gives serious cause for concern about the fate of the four al-Ikhbariya workers. We call on the leaders of the Free Syrian Army and the Syrian National Council to make every effort to ensure the journalists are released without delay.”
The Damascus head office of al-Ikhbariya, classified by the European Union as an instrument of propaganda on behalf of President Assad, was the target of an attack in late June in which at least three workers were reported killed.
In parallel with the abuses by the army and pro-government militias towards citizen journalists and those working in the media, other attacks have been carried out in recent weeks on official media organizations in Damascus and Aleppo and a growing number of pro-government journalists have been abducted.
According to the SOHR, and the Islamist group al-Nosra which claimed to have kidnapped him, the state TV presenter Mohammad Sayeed who was abducted from his Damascus home on 19 July, had been killed.