Three Spanish freelance journalists – Antonio Pampliega, Angel Sastre and José Manuel López – have been missing in Syria since 13 July, their families revealed yesterday. Experienced war reporters and members of Reporters Without Borders (RSF), they disappeared while in Aleppo to cover the Syrian conflict.
In a joint statement announcing that there has been no word from the three journalists since 13 July, the families said: “We are now working to find them but for the time being we don’t know where they are.” They also asked for “as much discretion as possible” as a requirement for their quest.
Spanish justice minister Rafael Catalá said the Spanish government will work intensively to locate the journalists. He described their disappearance as “very bad news” and said the government needed to “have confirmation (of the facts) and to establish the precise circumstances” in which they went missing.
“We are very concerned about the fate of these three Spanish journalists, who disappeared in Aleppo, a city controlled partly by Islamic State and partly by Al-Nusra Front, another armed group,” Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Christophe Deloire said.
“We urge the Spanish government to use all possible means to find these journalists and we appeal to all parties to the conflict to respect the work of the media and to stop taking hostages for political ends. The UN Security Council’s recent Resolution 2222 pointed out that journalists covering armed conflicts are civilians, that they cannot be deliberately targeted and that they enjoy special protection.”
According to the information obtained by RSF, the three journalists were travelling with a fixer Usama Ajjan who went missing at the same time as them.
All three journalists are experienced reporters who have covered wars in different regions in recent years including Syria. They are also RSF members and are currently equipped with bullet-proof vests and helmets provided by RSF.
Born in Madrid in 2008, Pampliega has worked as a freelancer in Iraq, Lebanon, Pakistan, Egypt, Afghanistan, Haiti, Honduras, Somalia and South Sudan, as well as Syria, where he has been covering the fighting since 2011 for leading Spanish and international media.
At the moment, he is working for “Infiltrados,” a current affairs programme on Spain’s Cuatro TV channel that has covered several stories linked to the war in Syria.
Awarded the Larra Journalism Prize in 2010, Sastre has been a reporter for CNN+ for the past six years. He has also reported from Syria and Palestine for Cuatro TV and the newspapers La Razón and El Confidencial.
López is a photojournalist who specializes in covering wars. He was a member of the staff of La Crónica de León before freelancing in Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine, Iran, Kosovo, Haiti, Guatemala, Nagorno-Karabakh, Venezuela and many other countries.
His work has been published in the New York Times and other leading media outlets. He has also worked regularly for Agence France-Presse, contributing to its coverage of Syria, South Sudan and Somalia.
“We hope to have confirmation soon that they were not abducted and that the situation will be resolved in the very near future and in the best possible way for our colleagues,” said Malén Aznárez, the president of RSF Spain. “We offer our support to the families. Syria is the world’s most dangerous country for journalists.”
Around 30 journalists (including at least nine foreign journalists) are currently missing or held hostage by radical groups in Syria, which is ranked 177th out of 180 countries in the 2015 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.