July 30, 2012 - Updated on January 20, 2016

Two European photographers freed, detained Syrian blogger on hunger strike

Read in Arabic / بالعربية

Reporters Without Borders is relieved to learn that two foreign freelance photographers were freed on 27 July after being captured and held by foreign jihadi militants for a week in northern Syria.

“We reiterate our condemnation of any violence targeting journalists,” Reporters Without Borders said. “You have to admire the courage of journalists who are in Syria trying to provide coverage of the fighting between the Assad forces and rebels. It is hell for local journalists and it is getting more and more difficult for foreign journalists, who should take extreme care when they are inside the country and prepare their visits well in advance.”

The two photographers, Jeroens Oerlemans of the Netherlands and John Cantlie of the UK, were captured on 19 July and were held in a foreign jihadi camp “where there were no Syrians.” Their abductors suspected them of being CIA agents and were thinking of holding them for ransom.

At one point the two journalists tried to escape and were shot and injured, Oerlemans in the groin and Cantlie in the arm. Oerlemans said: “The shots came thick and fast, the hunt was on (...) ten minutes later, we were lying in our own blood.” They were finally released when the rebel Free Syrian Army intervened and escorted them back to the Turkish border.

Reporters Without Borders points out that it can arrange insurance for journalists who visit war zones where they could be threatened, detained or kidnapped, and it has a hotline they can all in any kind of emergency (+ 33 1 4777-7414).

Meanwhile, Reporters Without Borders is concerned for the health of the detained blogger Hussein Ghreir and calls for his release. Ghreir, who began a hunger strike on 10 July in protest against his continuing detention, has high blood pressure and heart problems.

He was arrested along with 15 other activists during a 16 February raid on the Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM). Four other SCM activists – Hani Zetani, Mansour Al-Omari, Abdel Rahman Hamada and Mazen Darwish – are also still held.

Reporters Without Borders reiterates its call for the immediate and unconditional release of all professional and citizen journalists detained in Syria.