New York, December 10, 2013–The Committee to Protect Journalists calls for the immediate release of two Spanish journalists who were abducted in Syria almost three months ago. Javier Espinosa and Ricardo Garcia Vilanova have been held captive by the Al-Qaeda affiliate Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS) since September 16, the families of the journalists announced today.
Espinosa, correspondent for the Spanish daily El Mundo, and Garcia Vilanova, an award-winning freelance photographer, were abducted by armed men at a checkpoint near the northern Syria town of Tal-Abyad, the families’ statement said. They were taken to a detention facility run by ISIS in Raqqa, along with four Free Syrian Army soldiers who had been escorting them. The soldiers were released nearly two weeks later.
The families, which have until now remained silent on the case, said ISIS has refused to negotiate for the journalists’ release or explain why they are being held. The group has not disclosed any further information about the journalists.
Espinosa and Garcia Vilanova are both veteran journalists who have made multiple reporting trips to Syria since the beginning of the conflict. Espinosa survived the 2012 siege of Baba Amr that killed countless civilians, including journalists Marie Colvin and Rémi Ochlik. Garcia Vilanova was detained once before by ISIS in Aleppo, but was released after an interrogation.
“The abductions of Javier Espinosa and Ricardo Garcia Vilanova show that even the most experienced journalists are at risk in Syria, the most dangerous country in the world for the press,” said CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa Coordinator Sherif Mansour. “We call on the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham to immediately release all journalists in their captivity.”
The announcement of the abduction of the Spanish journalists is but the latest in a string of abductions that have left approximately 30 journalists missing in Syria. In the past two months alone, there have been at least seven other abductions, including two Swedish freelance journalists, Magnus Falkehed and Niclas Hammarstrom, on November 23. Another Spanish journalist, Marc Marginedas, a special correspondent for El Periódico, was kidnapped near the city of Hama on September 4, reports said.
ISIS and other Islamist militant groups have been responsible for many of these abductions, and in some instances, have tortured their captives, according to CPJ research.
- For more data and analysis on Syria, visit CPJ’s Syria page here.