Crowdfunding campaign to support Spanish journalist released in Syria

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

By Alexandra Theodorakidis

In late March, two Spanish journalists were released after being kidnapped in Syria more than six months ago. Ricardo García Vilanova, a freelance photographer, and Javier Espinosa, a veteran correspondent for the Spanish daily El Mundo, were kidnapped by a rogue Al Qaeda group while crossing the border between Syria and Turkey on September 16, 2013.

García Vilanova, an award-winning journalist, has covered the uprisings in Libya and Syria, but as a freelancer is not provided with a regular salary, only being paid when he works. Unlike Espinosa, whose family continued to be taken care of during his captivity by his employing newspaper El Mundo, no media organization has taken financial responsibility for García Vilanova. He will need time to recover physically and emotionally from the 194 days he spent in grueling captivity, during which he will continue to lack financial security.

In response to this, a crowdfunding campaign has been launched to raise funds for García Vilanova through the release of his book Libya Close Up, a collection of photographs taken throughout the conflict in Libya. Donations will be used to publish the book, with all profits going to García Vilanova. These profits will help García Vilanova to pay off debts accrued during captivity, including his mortgage, insurance, and taxes, amounting to 12,000 €. Donations to the campaign will enable García Vilanova to fully recover from his ordeal without the stress of financial burdens. The campaign ends on May 13, 2014.

While CJFE celebrates the release of García Vilanova and Espinosa, it is important to remember that 13 foreign and more than 20 Syrian journalists are still missing or being held hostage in Syria. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, Syria has become the most dangerous place in the world for journalists. This is especially true for freelancers, who are often more vulnerable to the surrounding violence in conflict zones as they have limited financial security, access to resources such as protective clothing and training on how to report safely from war zones.

Many media organizations are refraining from sending their staff journalists into Syria, due to the highly volatile conditions and the constant threats to journalists. This has resulted in a situation where the majority of reporting is undertaken by freelance journalists who lack the protections of any news outlet. As the situation in Syria has escalated into a humanitarian crisis, it is important for the international community to be aware of what is happening. Unfortunately, with the increased risks to journalists, access to information about Syria is being severely compromised.

Please support freelance journalist Ricardo García Vilanova by donating to Libya Close Up
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Alexandra Theodorakidis is CJFE’s Communications and Publications Assistant and a graduate of the Ryerson School of Journalism.