On 22 November 2012, the former Sunday Times reporter was kidnapped near the Turkish border in northern Syria, along with US journalist James Foley, who was later beheaded by the Islamic State (IS) in 2014. Cantlie has been used by the IS in 12 propaganda videos since being taken into captivity.
“Today marks five long years that John Cantlie has been held in captivity by the Islamic State - five years deprived of his liberty, exploited, and used for propaganda purposes. We urge all relevant authorities to do their utmost to ensure that John and his family do not have to endure another day of this hell, and that he is immediately brought home safely”, said RSF’s UK Bureau Director, Rebecca Vincent.
The last video in which Cantlie appeared, in December 2016, showed him looking pale and emaciated, indicating a dramatic physical change since his previous appearance in a video in July 2016. The December video showed him on the streets of Mosul for eight minutes, commenting on the destruction of the city’s bridges and interviewing residents. Previous videos had been filmed in Syrian and Iraqi cities including Aleppo, Kobani, and Raqqa, as well as Mosul.
Following the December 2016 video, in July 2017 there were unsubstantiated reports in the Iraqi media that Cantlie had been killed in the Mosul airstrikes. In October, a French IS fighter told French magazine Paris Match that he had seen Cantlie “seven or eight months ago” in a prison in Raqqa, claiming that Cantlie had been speaking to prisoners about jail conditions.
Cantlie remains one of around 22 journalists and media contributors currently believed to be held hostage by IS. Despite the fact that IS is losing ground in Iraq and Syria, there has been no information about the fate of these journalists. RSF calls on local and international authorities to redouble their efforts to find them all and bring them home safely.
Ranked 158th and 177th respectively in RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index, Iraq and Syria are among the world’s deadliest countries for journalists.