Major international news organisations sent a letter to the leadership of the armed opposition in Syria yesterday, calling for urgent action against rebel groups increasingly targeting journalists for kidnappings.
The letter, signed by 13 news organisations including The Associated Press, is in response to a sharp rise in the kidnapping of journalists while on assignment in opposition-held areas in northern Syria.
The widespread seizure of journalists is unprecedented and has so far been largely under-reported by news organisations in the hope that keeping the kidnappings out of public view may help with negotiating the captives' release. The scale of the abductions - more than 30 are believed to be currently held - and the lack of response to individual mediation efforts have encouraged some families and employers to speak out.
Most kidnappings since the summer have taken place in rebel-held territories, particularly in chaotic northern and eastern Syria, where militant al-Qaida-linked groups hold influence. Among the most dangerous places are the northeastern city of Raqqa, which was taken over by al-Qaida militants shortly after it became the first city to fall entirely into rebel hands; the eastern Deir el-Zour province; the border town of Azaz; and the corridor leading to Aleppo, once a main route for journalists going into Syria.