U.S. journalists, thought missing, are held by Syrian officials

New York, October 9, 2008–Two U.S. journalists missing since October 1 are being held in Syria in connection with visa issues, several news organizations reported today.

The Syrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said today that Holli Chmela, 27, and Taylor Luck, 23, were‎ arrested when they entered Syria without visas, news reports said.

The two journalists had been vacationing in Lebanon, colleagues told the Committee to Protect Journalists. Chmela, who had just finished an internship at The Jordan Times, and Luck, a staff writer at the paper, had flown to Beirut from Amman, Jordan, on September 29. On Wednesday, CPJ issued a news alert expressing concern about the safety of the journalists.

Agence France-Presse, citing a foreign ministry statement, said Syrian officials were interrogating the two journalists. “The two American nationals will be turned over to the United States embassy in Damascus after the necessary procedures are completed,” AFP quoted the statement as saying.

“We are relieved by reports that Holli Chmela and Taylor Luck are safe,” said CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney. “We urge the Syrian authorities to release them immediately.”