Spain seeks help to find jour­nal­ists miss­ing in Syria

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - WORLD -

Spain said Wed­nes­day that it is try­ing to es­tab­lish what hap­pened to three Span­ish free­lance jour­nal­ists who went miss­ing around the em­bat­tled north­ern Syr­ian city of Aleppo. A fourth jour­nal­ist, a Ja­panese na­tional, has also gone miss­ing in the wartorn coun­try.

Jus­tice Min­is­ter Rafael Catala told Spain’s Cadena SER ra­dio the gov­ern­ment had no news re­gard­ing the three Spa­niards and will con­tact the gov­ern­ment in Damascus over the case.

Span­ish For­eign Min­is­ter Jose Manuel Gar­cia Mar­gallo told re­porters that such cases caused much anx­i­ety “be­cause you have a cer­tain sense of im­po­tence, be­cause you’re de­pen­dent on the move­ments of those who have kid­napped our com­pa­tri­ots.”

So far, the gov­ern­ment has not specif­i­cally said if it is treat­ing the case as a kid­nap­ping.

Mar­gallo urged “max­i­mum dis­cre­tion” in the case but called for “tran­quil­ity,” say­ing sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tions in the past had ended well for Spain.

With the rise of the Is­lamic State group and a spate of jour­nal­ists’ ab­duc­tions start­ing in mid-2013, most media or­ga­ni­za­tions have opted to stay away from cov­er­age in­side Syria be­cause of the un­ac­cept­able risk level.

Over the last year, it has be­come rare for any for­eign jour­nal­ists to go into north­ern Syria, where a myr­iad of Is­lamic groups and the more ex­trem­ist IS and al-Qaida group rule.

A Span­ish jour­nal­ism as­so­ci­a­tion first re­ported on Tues­day that the three — iden­ti­fied as An­to­niu Pam­pl­iega, Jose Manuel Lopez and An­gel Sas­tre — were miss­ing since July 13. They had trav­elled to Syria, pre­sum­ably to­gether, to re­port on the coun­try’s long-run­ning civil war.

“An ef­fort has been un­der­way since then to search and lo­cate them,” a state­ment from their fam­i­lies said.

The three are the latest jour­nal­ists to be­come en­snared in the world’s most dan­ger­ous as­sign­ment for re­porters.

A fourth jour­nal­ist, a Ja­panese free­lancer, has also been re­ported miss­ing in Syria where he was last heard from one month ago.

In another in­ter­view late Tues­day, Catala, the Span­ish jus­tice min­is­ter, said it was nec­es­sary “to find out what hap­pened, who is hold­ing these jour­nal­ists, why, and if the pos­si­ble cap­tors are look­ing for a ran­som.”

The four-year con­flict in Syria has killed more than 220,000 peo­ple and has been the most deadly coun­try in the world for jour­nal­ists for the past few years.

At least 84 jour­nal­ists have been killed since 2011 in Syria, ac­cord­ing to the New York-based Com­mit­tee to Pro­tect Jour­nal­ists, in­clud­ing at least 12 in­ter­na­tional cor­re­spon­dents. More than 90 jour­nal­ists have been ab­ducted in the coun­try since the con­flict be­gan and 25 are still miss­ing

AP PHOTO VIA AH­MAD AJ­JAN

Span­ish free­lance jour­nal­ists Jose Manuel Lopez (from left) An­gel Sas­tre and An­to­nio Pam­pl­iega shortly af­ter their ar­rival in Syria for a re­port­ing trip. The three have been re­ported as miss­ing in the wartorn coun­try.

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