Video emerges of Ukrainian journalist captive in Syria

New York, November 14, 2012--A Ukrainian journalist who was kidnapped in Syria in mid-October appeared in a short video last week pleading for her embassy to meet the demands of her captors, according to news reports. At least two other international journalists are believed to be held captive in Syria and the whereabouts of a third are unknown, according to CPJ research.

"We call on all sides in this conflict to immediately release all journalists that they are holding," said CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney. "Journalists must be afforded full protection as civilians and should not be used as pawns in this conflict."

Anhar Kochneva, a Ukrainian contributor to several Russian news outlets including the Moscow-based TV station Russia Today, appeared in the YouTube video on November 7 and said in Arabic, "My name is Anhar. I am in Homs now, and I urge the Ukrainian and Russian embassies, as well as the Syrian government, to meet my captors' demands." She did not mention her captors' identity or their demands.

Ukraine's leading English-language newspaper Kyiv Post and other regional news reports said the video was posted by the rebel Free Syrian Army, but CPJ could not verify this claim. News accounts citing Ukrainian officials have reported that Kochneva is being held by the rebel Free Syrian Army.

The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry released a statement saying officials were negotiating for Kochneva's release, but did not offer further details, the Kyiv Post reported on Tuesday.

Other international journalists have been taken captive in Syria in August. Turkish cameraman Cüneyt Ünal and reporter Bashar Fahmi, a Jordanian citizen of Palestinian origin, who work for the U.S. government-funded Al-Hurra, were reported missing in the northwestern city of Aleppo on August 20, and U.S. freelance journalist Austin Tice also disappeared in mid-August, according to news reports. Tice is believed to be held in Syrian state custody, according to the U.S. State Department. Ünal appeared in a video on Al-Ikhbariya six days after his capture, but did not specify who his captors were. Fahmi's whereabouts remain unknown.

While CPJ research indicates that many of the fatalities in Syria have been at the hands of government forces, an increasing number of attacks against journalists and news outlets seen as pro-government have been attributed to rebel forces. At least 24 other journalists have been killed while covering the Syrian conflict since November, including one killed just over the border in Lebanon, CPJ research shows. CPJ has ranked Syria the most dangerous place in the world for journalists.