The families of two Spanish journalists, kidnapped almost three months ago near a checkpoint close to Tal Abyad in a rebel-held area of Syria, have publicly appealed for their safe and immediate release in a press conference held at the Samir Kassir Foundation in Lebanon.
The families were represented at the conference on Tuesday by Monica Prieto, the wife of one of the kidnapped, Javier Espinosa, who is also an award-winning journalist, and Ghaith Abdel Ahad from the Guardian.
It was a somber press conference shedding light on the dire situation, and appealing for the lives of Javier, who is the bureau chief of EL MUNDO in the Middle East, and Ricardo Garcia-Vilanova, an award-winning freelance photographer.
Ghaith began the conference with a written statement explaining the team’s journey, as well as when and how they went missing.
Syrians have a responsibility towards all those, Arabs and Westerners, who have defended you. Javier and Ricardo are not your enemy. Please, honour the revolution they protected and set them free
The families are confident, Ghaith said, that the abductors responsible for the September 16 kidnapping are from the armed rebel faction, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Four FSA escorts who were abducted with the journalists were released 12 days later.
Ghaith went on to explain the efforts they have pursued along with Syrian activists and journalists aware of the case.
“We have spent the last 3 months trying to reach the kidnappers, trying to negotiate any deal. The abductors haven’t made any claims and no demands, so after all channels were not working, we decided to come out [publicly],” said Ghaith.
“We’ve talked to many different groups [in the FSA brigades], and all the groups said they same: [the men] are with the ISIS and the discussion has to be with them,” he added.
Ghaith explained that the families are now “in public campaign mode. We are going on every aspect of media possible. Everything we have done in silence in the past 3 months we will do in public.”
Javier’s wife, Monica, read out an appeal for her husband and colleague Ricardo, her voice cracking: “I want to tell their kidnappers what their captives and what my family has done for Syria ever since the start of the revolution. From the first months of the uprising, we crossed the border illegally in order to report on the suffering of the population. Javier didn’t only survive the bombardment of Baba Amr, which killed two of his colleagues right before his eyes, he even chose to stay in the neighbourhood until the last civilian was evacuated.”
She went on to address Syrians themselves, “But you, as Syrians, also have a responsibility towards all those, Arabs and Westerners, who have defended you. Javier and Ricardo are not your enemy. Please, honour the revolution they protected and set them free.”