Spanish journalist missing in Syria

New York, September 24, 2013–The Committee to Protect Journalists calls for the immediate release of Spanish journalist Marc Marginedas in Syria. The special correspondent for the Barcelona-based El Periódico was kidnapped by rebel jihadi fighters on September 4 near the city of Hama, the paper reported Monday, citing unnamed sources.

According to El Periódico, Marginedas had entered Syria through southern Turkey on September 1 in the company of Free Syrian Army forces to report on the use of chemical weapons in the Damascus suburbs on August 21 and preparations for a possible Western military intervention. Around noon on September 4, Marginedas informed the newsroom that he planned to cover a recent Syrian army attack on a nearby town, but the report never came. Instead, the paper cited unnamed sources saying that “jihadis” had stopped Marginedas and his driver on a road near Hama. The fate of the driver was not reported.

No group has claimed responsibility for the abduction and El Periódico has had no contact with Marginedas since he went missing, the paper reported. Marginedas is a veteran journalist who has covered conflict zones from Algeria to Afghanistan, news reports said.

“Marc Marginedas’s captors should release him immediately,” said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Coordinator Sherif Mansour.  “Marginedas’ record of journalism could not be clearer. He has faced countless risks to gather news of the world’s most dangerous conflicts.”

Spanish Interior Minister Jorge Fernández Díaz told reporters today his department was working on the case.

In an interview with Spanish public television program “La Noche en 24 Horas,” El Periódico director Enric Hernández said the paper decided to go public to show Marginedas’s captors that he is a journalist and not in Syria for another reason. A recent post on a jihadist forum declared “journalists are the enemy to the mujahideen in Syria and globally” and urged fighters to detain and punish Western journalists, news reports said.

Last year, Marginedas published a book called “Periodismo en el campo de batalla” (Journalism on the Battlefield). The journalist, who has entered Syria two times before, has never been previously kidnapped, the paper’s communication director Montserrat Baldoma told CNN. In his last dispatch filed northeast of Hama on September 2 and published the next day, Marginedas wrote about the disappointment of one Free Syrian Army commander at what he called Western inaction and broken promises in Syria.

CPJ has reported on at least 14 local and international journalists currently missing in Syria.  The risk of abductions has increased dramatically in recent months as multiple groups seek to extort ransom and accuse journalists of spying. The rising influence of Al-Qaeda affiliated extremist groups and the increasingly frequent clashes between rebel groups have also enhanced the risks. Many journalists have told CPJ they are no longer entering Syria as a result.

  • For more data and analysis, see CPJ’s Syria page.