Reporters Without Borders

 Five journalists abducted but news of only four - where is the fifth?

Five journalists abducted but news of only four - where is the fifth?

Published on Tuesday 30 October 2012.
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Five foreign journalists are currently hostages or missing in Syria – Fidaa Itani (a Lebanese reporter), Ankhar Kochneva (a Ukrainian reporter and interpreter), Austin Tice (a US freelancer), Cüneyt Ünal (a Turkish TV cameraman) and Bashar Fahmi Al-Kadumi (a Jordanian TV reporter).

Since their disappearance, evidence of their still being alive has emerged in all but one case – Kadumi’s.

What has happed to Kadumi, a reporter for a US-funded Al-Hurra TV? There has been no news of him since he went missing on 20 August in Aleppo at the same time as his Al-Hurra colleague, the Turkish cameraman Cüneyt Ünal.

His brother, Bashar, said he thought he was being held by pro-government forces. But the information ministry denied this on 4 September. So where is he? Someone is not saying the truth. That is common in wartime, but it tends to create an information black hole.

Reporters Without Borders calls on Kadumi’s kidnappers to provide his family and colleagues with evidence that he is still alive and then release him as soon as possible. At the same time, the media freedom organization calls on the armed opposition groups and the Syrian authorities to free the four other foreign journalists who are being held hostage.

Details of other four journalists

  • Ankhar Kochneva, a Ukrainian journalist who has worked for many Russian news media, especially as an interpreter, 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. On 12 and 13 October, she was able to contact NTV, one of the Russian media she has worked for as an interpreter.
  • Cüneyt Ünal, the Al-Hurra cameraman who was abducted in Aleppo on 20 August, appeared in video footage broadcast by the Syrian pro-government TV station Al-Ikhbariya on 26 August that showed him looking tired and with bruises under both eyes. The Turkish humanitarian organization IHH posted a photo of him on its website on 27 October. It was dated 24 October and was obtained by an IHH delegation while visiting a detention centre.
  • Austin Tice, a US freelancer who worked for the Washington Post, Al-Jazeera English and McClatchy, 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.

At least 16 journalists and 19 citizen-journalists are currently imprisoned in Syria despite President Bashar Al-Assad’s announcement of a general amnesty on 23 October. Nine human rights organizations including Reporters Without Borders issued a joint statement on 25 October calling for their release. Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Christophe Deloire said: "If this amnesty announcement is genuine, Bashar Al-Assad must allow independent international observers to visit all of Syria’s detention centres. Journalists and citizen-journalists who were arrested just for exercising their right to inform Syrians and the international community about the events taking place in Syria must be released at once, along with human rights defenders. Failing this, the announcement will be just an empty shell."

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