The Broadcasting Board of Governors, which protects the
independence of the U.S. government's international broadcasts, including Middle
East Broadcasting Networks (MBN), has called for the release of a pair of
journalists working for the U.S.-backed Alhurra TV, correspondent Bashar Fahmi
and cameraman Cuneyt Unal. Both are in Syria, currently the most dangerous
place for journalists on the planet, according to the committee that tries to
That BBG call came after a Syrian government TV channel
broadcast a brief statement from Unal identifying himself as a militant. The
Turkish foreign minister (Unal is Turkish) has said that he was simply reading
a statement that had been dictated to him.
"This video is deeply disturbing and underscores the
perilous situation for these journalists," said MBN chairman Michael Meehan, a
member of the BBG board, in a statement. "We call for their immediate
release, and we urge the Syrian government to take action to ensure their
The pair has been missing since Aug. 20.
A Japanese reporter, Mika Yamamoto, was killed in the
Northern Syrian city of Aleppo last week, according to various reports,
including from the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). Fahmi and Unal were
in the same city. According to ABC News, Fahmi's wife said last week they were
still alive and being held by the forces of President Bashar al-Assad.
Elsewhere, concerns were mounting over missing freelance
American journalist Austin Tice, who had filed on the Syrian conflict for a
number of news outlets, including The
Washington Post, CBS and Al-Jazeera English, according to the CPJ. Tice has
been unaccounted for since mid-month and The
Washington Post has blogged a Tice Facebook
entry from last month explaining why he would risk his life to
tell the story.
"We are concerned that family and editors have lost
contact with Austin Tice, a journalist who has been reporting on events in
Syria for some of the leading international media outlets," said CPJ executive
director Joel Simon in a statement Friday.
According to CPJ, at least 19 journalists have been killed
covering the Syrian conflict since November, which CPJ says now makes it the
most dangerous place in the world for journalists.