News corps ask Syrian rebels to halt kidnap of journalists

Posted Dec 12, 2013 by Eileen Kersey
The Syrian war has dragged on for more than two years with both sides, the rebels and the Assad regime, blaming each other. Journalists reporting from the area face an increasingly hostile environment and kidnappings by rebel forces are on the increase.
Free Syrian Army rebels chant slogans against President Bashar Al-Assad in Damascus.
Free Syrian Army rebels chant slogans against President Bashar Al-Assad in Damascus.
Voice of America
Rebel forces in Syria are rag-tag brigades made up of many factions, including foreign nationals. Leading such forces, instilling discipline and keeping control is nigh on impossible. For the rebels, ensuring that news reporting of the civil war hits the mainstream media is important. Wars are often fought or lost with the help of the media and propaganda.
An increase in the kidnap of journalists in Syria has led to 13 news organizations, including The New York Times, Reuters, The Washington Post, BBC News, and Getty Images, calling on "the Syrian opposition to help curtail “a disturbing rise” in kidnappings of journalists that have reduced coverage of the civil war" reports Poynter.
With more than 30 journalists being held captive in the northern provinces of Aleppo, Idlib and al-Raqqa and elsewhere in Syria, those organizations issued a letter Wednesday addressed to the "leadership of the armed opposition in Syria".
CPJ, the Committee to Protect Journalists, reports:
In an unprecedented step, 13 international news organizations signed a joint letter today to the Syrian armed opposition about the "disturbing rise in the kidnapping of journalists" in Syria, which has led many outlets to reduce their coverage of the conflict out of safety concerns. The organizations urge the Syrian armed opposition leadership "to assist in identifying those groups currently holding journalists and take the steps necessary to bring about their release."
This unprecedented step comes in response to an unprecedented danger, with approximately 30 journalists currently missing in Syria. Even the Iraq War, the deadliest conflict for journalists since CPJ's founding, did not reach such chilling numbers. And yet the numbers continue to grow, with at least seven abductions in the past two months.
Click here to read the full letter in English and Arabic.
The letter acknowledges the dangers journalists face when working in war-zones but says the risk of kidnapping in Syria is unacceptable. Security in rebel held areas is a must and without it journalists will not be able to report from such areas. The news organizations are committed to making sure the world knows what is happening in Syria but must now limit coverage.
Put simply, either rebel leaders control the situation or face limited reporting on the civil war.
As the Atlantic reports "Media organizations warn that violence against reporters is cutting the world off from coverage of the civil war".
"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".
Syria is now classed as the most dangerous place in the world to be working as a journalist with 55 reporters being killed since the conflict began, around two and a half years ago. The figures come from the Committee to Protect Journalists who confirm pro- and anti-Assad forces have both had a hand in the bloodshed.
Journalists reporting from the scene of any event may risk live and limb. Many do so, on a daily basis, in order to bring news reports to the world. Thursday CPJ report the third journalist in two weeks has been killed in the Philippines.
Apart from the risk of kidnap they may be raped, attacked, injured, killed, be held captive or suffer PTSD, post traumatic stress disorder, due to their experiences. That list is by no means exhaustive.
The families of journalists, who work regularly overseas, will have their lives disrupted. Even those who work on home ground can end up caught up in the drama of the day.
Getting news stories from the front-line to readers remains a dangerous occupation.