News organizations ask Syrian rebels to halt journalist kidnappings

The Atlantic | Committee to Protect Journalists

Thirteen news organizations have called on the Syrian opposition to help curtail “a disturbing rise” in kidnappings of journalists that have reduced coverage of the civil war.

In a letter isssued today, the groups said by its count more than 30 journalists are being held. The kidnappings have occurred in the northern provinces of Aleppo, Idlib and al-Raqqa and elsewhere in Syria:

As a result of these kidnappings, a growing number of news organizations no longer feel that it is safe for their reporters and photographers to enter Syria, and many have decided to limit their coverage of the war, unwilling to have their staff members subjected to the increasingly common risk of abduction.

The news organizations signing the letter include Agence France-Presse, The Associated Press, Atlantic Media, BBC News, The Economist, Getty Images, The Guardian, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, Reuters, The Telegraph, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post.

While the kidnappings continue, the news outlets wrote, journalists will not be willing to take assignments in Syria and “will no longer be able to serve as witnesses to the events taking place within Syria’s borders.”

We believe it is imperative for the leadership of the armed opposition to commit itself to assuring that journalists can work within Syria, secure from the threat of kidnapping. Among other things, we ask the leadership to assist in identifying those groups currently holding journalists and take the steps necessary to bring about their release.

The Atlantic recapped the recent kidnappings:

Just in the last few weeks, we’ve learned that two Swedish journalists were abducted near the Lebanese border, two Spanish journalists were kidnapped by al Qaeda-affiliated fighters in the northern province of Raqqa, and an Iraqi cameraman was executed by the same jihadi group in the northern province of Idlib.

The Committee to Protect Journalists ranks Syria as the most dangerous country for journalists. The organization reports that 53 journalists have been killed in Syria since 1992.

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