Syria Kidnappers Must Free Ukraine Journalist

BEIRUT, Lebanon -- An international media watchdog condemned on Thursday the kidnapping of a Ukrainian journalist who has been held in Syria since October 9.

Ukrainian journalist Ankhar Kochneva

Ankhar Kochneva, "who contributes to several Russian media outlets and also works as an interpreter, is believed to be held by a faction of the (rebel) Free Syrian Army somewhere between Tartus and Damascus," Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said in a statement.

RSF "deplores the abduction of the Ukrainian journalist... and calls for her release," the Paris-based organisation said.

Kochneva has been in Syria since October last year, the statement said.

According to Russia Today, she travelled to the coastal province of Tartus on October 8.

A day later, she confirmed by telephone that she had been kidnapped, RSF said. 

"The Ukrainian foreign ministry reported she was being held in 'satisfactory conditions,'" RSF said.

Another three foreign journalists have been missing in Syria since August.

Cuneyt Unal and Bashar Fahmi, who work for US broadcaster Al-Hurra, disappeared in the northern province of Aleppo on August 20.

"Only Unal has given any sign of life, albeit under duress," RSF said.

US freelance journalist Austin Tice, who contributes to several prestigious outlets, disappeared on August 13 in a suburb of Damascus, it said.

An Internet video later surfaced showing Tice, blindfolded, but which lacked enough information to draw conclusions about his current condition or whereabouts.

The watchdog has called on both the regime and the opposition to halt abuses against media workers.

Fourteen professional journalists have been killed over the course of the Syrian conflict.

Another 38 citizen journalists have been killed, RSF says.

Syria is ranked 176th out of 179 countries on RSF's press freedom index.

Source: Lebanon Daily Star


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