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Kidnapping of journalists widespread in Syria

| Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013, 8:48 p.m.

BEIRUT — In secrecy, at least 30 journalists have been kidnapped or have disappeared in Syria — held and threatened with death by extremists or taken captive by gangs seeking ransom.

The widespread seizure of journalists is unprecedented, and has been largely unreported by news organizations in the hope that keeping the kidnappings out of public view may help to negotiate the captives' release.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists says at least 30 journalists are being held and 52 have been killed since Syria's civil war began in early 2011. The group has documented at least 24 other journalists who disappeared earlier this year but are now safe. In a report this week, Paris-based Reporters Without Borders cited higher figures, saying at least 60 “news providers” are detained and more than 110 have been killed.

The discrepancy stems from varying definitions of what constitutes a journalist, because much of the reporting and news imagery coming out of Syria is not from traditional professional journalists. Some of those taken have been activists affiliated with the local “media offices” that have sprouted up across opposition-held territory.

Groups like the Committee to Protect Journalists are alarmed by the kidnappings.

While withholding news of abductions is understandable in many cases, especially with lives at stake, the organization says, this has served to mask the extent of the problem.

“Every time a journalist enters Syria, they are effectively rolling the dice on whether they're going to be abducted or not,” said Jason Stern, a researcher at CPJ.

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