The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has appealed for the safe return of a team of Sky News Arabia journalists who have gone missing in the contested city of Aleppo in northern Syria.
Sky News Arabia said it lost contact on Tuesday morning with Mauritian reporter Ishak Moctar, Lebanese cameraman Samir Kassab, and their Syrian driver whose name is being withheld at his familiy's request. Nart Bouran, Sky News Arabia chief, said the crew was on assignment, primarily to focus on the humanitarian aspects of the conflict in Aleppo, where rebels and Syrian government troops have been fighting since mid-2012. The channel has appealed for any information on the team's whereabouts and for help to ensure the journalists' safe return.
"We appeal for the safe return of these journalists and we stand in solidarity with their families and colleagues," said IFJ President Jim Boumelha. "As journalists, the men are free to report on the Syrian conflict without fear of intimidation or violence. They cannot be harmed or treated as an enemy. If they have been stopped or held by any armed group or faction we appeal for their immediate release."
Since Syria's uprising in March 2011, the country has become the most dangerous in the world for journalists. Dozens of Syrian and international journalists have been kidnapped and it has been reported at least 40 have been killed while reporting in the country since the conflict began.
Italian reporter Domenico Quirico was freed in September after five months in captivity in the country, but a number of other journalists are still missing. On 26 September the IFJ called on the Syrian Free Army to secure the release of Spanish journalist Marc Maginedas who is believed to have been kidnapped by Jihadist fighters, and on 9 October, the IFJ/EFJ called for the release of two French journalists, Nicolas Henin and Peter Torres, who have been missing in Syria for nearly four months.
In total, there are now officially four French journalists who are being held hostage in Syria. Didier François and Edward Elias, who both work for Europe 1, were kidnapped on June 6 in the Aleppo region. Polish photographer Marcin Suder and a number of Syrian television journalists are still being held, while American journalists Austin Tice and James Foley have also been missing for over a year and ten months, respectively. Palestinian journalist Fahmi al Kadumi has also been missing since August 2012.
"Syria is an extremely dangerous country for journalists to work in," said IFJ General Secretary Beth Costa. "We call on all sides involved in the war in Syria to cease the targeting of journalists, to respect media freedom and to immediately release all journalists currently under detention.
"We also urge media organisations to uphold their duty of care for their staff and to ensure the safety of journalists covering dangerous events in the country, and we urge all journalists working there to remain vigilant at all times and protect their safety."