Thirteen major news organizations including The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, BBC, The Economist and The Guardian, have signed a letter asking Syria’s opposition groups to stop kidnapping journalists and to release those who have been held captive in the country.
As many as 30 journalists are currently being held hostage by rebel groups fighting Bashar al-Assad’s government. The letter states that the growing epidemic of journalist kidnappings are causing news outlets to “limit their coverage of the war” instead of subjecting their staff members “to the increasingly common risk of abduction.”
The letter is being emailed to the Free Syrian Army and also being sent via social media to leaders of other significant rebel groups, including the Islamic Front, the Guardian reported.
The letter states the increasing threat of kidnapping of both international and local journalists in Syria will make it “even more difficult for the world to know what is taking place inside Syria.”
Here is the letter, which can be read on the website of the Committee to Protect Journalists.
We write on behalf of 13 news organisations listed below. Over the past 12 months, we have witnessed the disturbing rise in the kidnapping of journalists while on assignments within the northern provinces of Aleppo, Idlib and al-Raqqa as well as elsewhere in Syria.
By our estimate, more than 30 journalists are now being held. As a result of these kidnappings, a growing number of news organisations 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 they staff members subjected to the increasingly common risk of abduction.
The international news organisations signing this letter are committed to providing the world with fair and in-depth coverage of the war, the activities of rebel-aligned forces, and the suffering of civilians within Stria without fear that they will be victims of kidnappings by criminal gangs or groups associated with rebels.
As long as kidnappings are permitted to continue unabated, journalists will not be willing to undertake assignments inside Syria, and they will no longer be able to serve as witnesses to the events taking place within Syria’s borders.
We know as well that Syrian journalists are being kidnapped, making it even more difficult for the world to know what is taking place inside Syria.
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 being about their release.
The deterioration of security within rebel-controlled areas leaves journalists susceptible to future kidnappings. We understand that, as in any war zone, reporters face great risk of injury and death, and we accept those risks, but thew risk of kidnapping is unacceptable, and the leadership is in a position to reduce and eliminate that risk.
We appreciate your attention to this vitally important issue.
Phillipe Massonnet, AFP
Kathleen Carroll, AP
David Bradley, Atlantic Media
Jonathan Baker, BBC
John Micklethwait, The Economist
Francisco Bernasconi, Getty Images
Alan Rusbridger, The Guardian
Mark Porubcansky, Los Angeles Times
Dean Baquet, New York Times
Samia Nakhoul, Reuters
Ian Marsden, Daily Telegraph
Gerard Baker, Wall Street Journal
Douglas Jehl, Washington Post