The letter, signed by representatives from organisations such as The Guardian, The Wall Street Journal, and The New York Times demands that the rebel army be more respectful of the reporters who are trying to fairly cover the conflict.
The groups also warn the Free Syrian Army that continued violence could deter journalists from reporting on the events of the war, which they say could only mean negative things for them.
“By our estimate, more than 30 journalists are now being held,” the letter states, according to a copy posted on the Committee to Protect Journalists website. “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 their staff members subjected to the increasingly common risk of abduction.”
The letter calls for the liberation of the journalists who are currently being held, and that leaders “take the necessary steps” to bring about their release.
This protest comes after Spanish newspaper El Mundo announced Tuesday that two journalists, Javier Espinosa and Ricardo Garcia Vilanova, were kidnapped in September while trying to leave Syria and have been captive since, CNN states. The newspaper had been trying to solve the issue discretely, but after months with no results, the organisation decided to make the news public.
Speaking from Beirut, Espinosa’s wife said, “Today we appeal to the Syrian people and all armed groups to help release Javier and Ricardo, who have always been committed to show the human face and suffering of the Syrian people during these very difficult times,” CNN reports.
Reporters Without Borders also recently began a campaign to end the violence against journalists in Syria, called “Free Press for Syria.” This movement is focusing more on the journalists native to Syria, who have also been under attack.
“Press freedom and freedom of expression are inalienable and universal human rights,” the organisation said. “Any abuse against these universal rights must be condemned and opposed. We call on the whole Syrian civil society, its political institutions and its media groups, to take relevant action to expose these practices, to oppose them, and to protect the media from these dangers.”
Earlier this year, Reporters Without Borders stated in its 2013 World Press Freedom Index that Syria is the world’s most dangerous place to be a journalist.
The report states, “The deadliest country for journalists in 2012 was Syria, where journalists and netizens are the victims of an information war waged by both the Assad regime, which stops at nothing in order to crack down and impose a news blackout, and by opposition factions that are increasingly intolerant of dissent.”
Journalists local to Syria have been feeling the pressure as well as foreign correspondents. According to CPJ, Mohamad Nour Matar was kidnapped in August after covering an opposition protest. His whereabouts are still unknown.
Ziad Homsi, a Syrian photographer was also kidnapped, but recently announced on Twitter that he was released after a month of captivity.
The group also states, “Syria remains the most dangerous country in the world for journalists. At least 55 journalists have been killed covering the conflict since 2011, with local journalists comprising 90 percent of the fatalities.”