Spain seeks help to find journalists missing in Syria
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
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.