Groups call for Syria to release detained journalists
Syrian authorities were urged Friday by the Committee to Protect Journalists and Reporters Without Borders to release foreign journalists who were detained as they covered the intensified conflict, including the Texan-born Austin Tice, dpa reported.
The two organizations said Tice, a freelance photo-journalist for the Washington Post, the McClatchy newspapers and Al-Jazeera English, went missing and was believed detained since early August as he covered the fighting in Aleppo.
"There is a strong indication that the Syrian government is holding Austin Tice," said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon.
"Damascus should acknowledge his captivity and release Tice immediately," Simon said. "All sides fighting in Syria must ensure the safety of media personnel and respect their internationally recognized status as civilians."
The Czech embassy in Damascus told the two organizations this week that Tice is believed to be alive but is detained by government forces in the outskirts of Damascus, where fighting between government and rebels forces was still underway.
Reporters Without Borders said Turkish cameraman Cuneyt Unal and Jordanian reporter Bashar Fahmi Al-Kadumi, who worked for the US-funded Al-Hurra television channel, went missing since August 20.
Reporters Without Borders said Syria's Al-Ikhbariya television station broadcast footage on Monday showing Unal giving a statement that was clearly made under duress.
"Looking tired and with bruises under both eyes, he said that, before being captured by government forces in Aleppo, he had been escorted during his reporting by persons of foreign origin including Saudis, Chechens, Libyans and Qataris 'who were all carrying a weapon,'" the group said.
CPJ, which documents cases of missing and killed journalists, said at least 19 journalists have been killed covering the Syrian conflict since November, including one killed just over the border in Lebanon, making Syria the most dangerous place in the world for journalists.
In addition to foreign journalists believed detained by Syrian authorities, Reporters Without Borders said there were at least 31 Syrian journalists and citizen-journalists in government jails.