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Three Spanish journalists held captive for 10 months in Syria freed

On 8 May 2016, the three freed Spanish journalists Antonio Pampliega, right, Jose Manuel Lopez, left, and Angel Sastre, arrive at the Torrejon military airbase in Madrid, Spain
On 8 May 2016, the three freed Spanish journalists Antonio Pampliega, right, Jose Manuel Lopez, left, and Angel Sastre, arrive at the Torrejon military airbase in Madrid, Spain

Pool Moncloa via AP

This statement was originally published on on 9 May 2016.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is deeply relieved and overjoyed by the release of three Spanish freelance journalists who had been held hostage in Syria for the past ten months. They arrived back in Madrid yesterday.

“The moment we have awaited for nearly a year has finally arrived,” said Malén Aznárez, the president of RSF's Spanish section. “We are finally able to express our happiness and relief at the release of Antonio Pampliega, José Manuel López and Angel Sastre, something we have been seeking since the day they disappeared.

“We have lived in a state of constant anxiety ever since the abduction of these three journalists, who are all RSF members. It is impossible to describe the joy we feel. We will continue to offer them and their families our support and we are grateful for the confidence they have always shown towards RSF.”

Pampliega, López and Sastre went missing in the northwestern Syrian city of Aleppo on 12 July 2015, shortly after crossing the Turkish border into Syria. The identity of their abductors was never officially confirmed but the Spanish media always said they were held by the Al-Nusra Front, which controls the area where they disappeared.

During the ten months they were held hostage, they were moved six times by their abductors. They were kept together for the first three months but then Pampliega was separated from the other two.

“It was wonderful to talk to him by phone,” Pampliega's mother, María del Mar Rodríguez, told RSF. “He still had the same voice, his child's voice, and he constantly apologized for what he made me go through.”

She said the family had known that the three journalists were alive. “Everyone has really been equal to the situation,” she added. “I would like to thank RSF for respecting the silence we requested and for constantly issuing reminders about their plight and the plight of all other kidnapped journalists.”

RSF regards Syria as the world's most dangerous country for media personnel. At least 139 journalists and 47 citizen-journalists have been killed there since the start of the war in March 2011. Around 30 are still imprisoned by the government and at least 26 (including six foreign journalists) are either missing or being held hostage by radical groups such as Islamic State and Al-Nusra Front.

“These factions abduct foreign journalists for various purposes,” Aznárez added. “It is a way to obtain ransoms, it is a way to sow terror in the cities they control and it is a propaganda tool. We call for the immediate release of all kidnapped journalists, for whom we will continue to fight by all possible means.”

Syria is ranked 177th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2016 World Press Freedom Index.

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