Journalists demand release of colleagues
Sat, 01 September 2012
ANKARA — More than 100 Turkish journalists yesterday staged a protest to demand the release of two Turkish reporters reportedly being held by the Syrian government. Gathering in front of the Syrian embassay in Ankara, protestors unfurled banners reading "Syria, give our colleagues back," "Don't kill journalists," and "Journalist is not the target." Turkish cameraman Cuneyt Unal and his colleague Bashar Fahmi, who both work for the Al Hurra network, have been missing in Syria for 11 days and are reportedly being held by government troops.
Turkish media on Monday aired a video of Unal that was broadcast by Syria's Al Ikhbariya news channel in recent days, in which he says that he crossed into Aleppo together with other armed groups. In the video, Unal appeared exhausting and nervous, with bruises under both eyes. The two missing journalists' families also joined the protest in Ankara. "My husband has been to Syria for only journalism reasons," Cuneyt's wife Nuran said. "I want my husband back."
Bashar's wife Arzu desperately said: "My children have been asking for 11 days if their father will get back. I have no answer to give them." Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said on Monday Unal was in Syria for purely journalism reasons and stressed that "the Syrian state is responsible for his well-being."
Meanwhile, an American freelance journalist whose whereabouts in Syria were unknown for more than two weeks is being held by the Syrian government, his employers said. The Washington Post, citing diplomatic sources, said that Austin Tice, 31, was detained near the Damascus suburb of Daraya. Czech Ambassador to Syria Eva Filipi, who has overseen US interests in Syria since the US embassy was closed in February, told a Czech television station on Monday that the reporter was "detained by government forces on the outskirts of Damascus."
Tice wrote for the Post and McClatchy Newspapers, among other publications, and both outlets called for his prompt release. "We're investigating reports that Austin Tice is in the custody of Syrian authorities," Post executive editor Marcus Brauchli said in a statement. "If the reports are true, we urge these authorities to release him promptly, unharmed. Journalists should never be detained for doing their work, even — and especially — in difficult circumstances."
Anders Gyllenhaal, McClatchy vice president for news, said that if Tice "is in fact being held by the Syrian government, we would expect that he is being well cared for and that he will quickly be released." The US State Department said the Assad government has declined to respond to official inquiries about Tice, and that US diplomats were working through Czech mediation "to get more information on his welfare and whereabouts," according to McClatchy.
The newspaper group said Tice entered Syria in May without a visa, a common practice for journalists seeking to report on the war as Damascus issues few press visas. Many correspondents have crossed the border independently. He then traveled throughout Syria with opposition forces, and reached the Damascus area in late July, setting up base in Daraya. McClatchy said Tice last communicated with his colleagues on August 13, though he did not indicate how he planned to leave Syria.
Ten journalists have been killed since the Syria uprising began in March 2011, including five foreigners, according to the advocacy group Reporters Without Borders. At least 30 Syrian citizen-journalists have also been killed. Reporters Without Borders called for the “immediate release” of Tice and all journalists who have been detained or kidnapped in Syria. Tice’s parents Marc and Debra called for their son to be released safe and sound.
Ads with Image