“Proof of life” of journalist abducted a year ago in Syria

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is delighted to learn that, almost exactly one year after South African freelance photojournalist Shiraaz Mohamed was abducted by gunmen in northwestern Syria, his colleagues have obtained proof that he is still alive.

Gift of the Givers, the South African humanitarian NGO with which Mohamed was working at the time of his abduction, has reported in a statement that questions drafted by his family were conveyed through intermediaries to his supposed abductors and that, according to the family, only Mohamed could have given the answers that came back.

Until now, the NGO and Mohamed’s family had not been able to obtain any reliable information about his status since his abduction a year ago and they still do not know why he was kidnapped.

“We are relieved to learn that Shiraaz Mohamed, a freelance journalist who went to Syria to document the humanitarian situation, is still alive,” RSF said. “Although the identity of his abductors is still unknown, we call for his immediate and unconditional release and that of all the other journalists currently held hostage in Syria.”

Mohamed and two Gift of the Givers employees were abducted on 10 January 2017 by armed men who identified themselves as “representatives of all the armed groups in Syria” and said they wanted to resolve a “misunderstanding.” The NGO’s two employees were released shortly thereafter.

The military defeats suffered by Islamic State in 2017 and the loss of its strongholds in Iraq and Syria have yet to be reflected in any improvement in security for journalists. And RSF has not as yet been able to obtain any information about the fate of the journalists who had been held by Islamic State in Mosul and Raqqa, cities recently recovered by Iraqi forces and a US-backed Arab-Kurdish coalition.

At least 29 journalists and citizen-journalists, including seven foreign journalists, are still held hostage by armed groups in Syria, which is ranked 177th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2017 World Press Freedom Index.

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Updated on 10.01.2018