Turkish journalist abducted in Syria

Istanbul, December 19, 2013–A Turkish journalist is the latest reporter to be abducted in Syria, where approximately 30 journalists are missing, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. Bünyamin Aygün, a photojournalist for the daily Milliyet, was abducted in November, but the case was not made public before this week.

According to CPJ research, at least 53 journalists have been abducted during the year, including those who have been released or escaped.

“The shocking truth is this: Every week, a journalist gets kidnapped in Syria,” said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Coordinator Sherif Mansour. “We call for the immediate release of every journalist held captive in Syria, regardless of who holds them.”

Milliyet said Aygün entered Syria on November 26 to report on the conflict. The paper said he was last heard from on November 27, while he was in the town of Selqin in Idlib province, but it was unclear whom he had communicated with.

Bülent Kılıç, a photographer for the Turkey office of Agence France-Presse (AFP) who is also a friend of Aygün’s, told CPJ that he had communicated with the journalist via WhatsApp, a mobile social networking site, at around 10 p.m. on November 27.

İlke Gürsal, Milliyet‘s news editor, told CPJ that officials from the Turkish Foreign Ministry and MIT, the Turkish national intelligence service, were working to secure Aygün’s release.

Aygün is believed to be held by the same group that is holding El Mundo correspondent Javier Espinosa and freelance photojournalist Ricardo Garcia Vilanova, Milliyet reported, but it did not offer further details. On December 10, the families of the two Spanish journalists said publicly for the first time that Espinosa and Garcia Vilanova had been held captive by the Al-Qaeda affiliate Islamic State of Iraq and Sham since September 16.

In response to the unprecedented number of journalist abductions, more than a dozen major international outlets signed a joint letter last week to major Syrian armed opposition groups calling on them to “take the steps necessary to bring about their release.”

  • For more data and analysis on Syria, visit CPJ’s Syria page here.