Monday, March 10, 2014To the Leadership of the Armed Opposition in Syria, I am writing on behalf of Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE), a non-profit, non-governmental organization that works to promote and protect press freedom and freedom of expression around the world. CJFE is deeply troubled by the death of Canadian photojournalist Ali Mustafa, who was one of eight people killed when two bombs were dropped while he was working in Aleppo, Syria on March 9, 2014. Mustafa was working in Syria as a freelancer, documenting human rights abuses and the ongoing civil war. At the time of his death, Mustafa was documenting the carnage resulting from an earlier explosion. Mustafa’s death comes on the heels of the recent release of Spanish journalist Marc Marginedas, a veteran war reporter for the Spanish newspaper El Periódico, who spent six months in captivity in Syria. Marginedas entered Syria across the land border with Turkey on September 1, 2013. He was kidnapped by the jihadi group Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) three days later, near the city of Hama. Marginedas was on his third trip to Syria, with the intention of covering the government’s preparations for a planned Western military invasion and to investigate the use of chemical weapons against citizens in a Damascus suburb on August 21, 2013. Although CJFE celebrates the release of Marginedas, the death of Mustafa serves as a reminder that Syria is the deadliest country for the press, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). At least 63 journalists have been killed as a direct result of their work since the start of the conflict in March 2011, a total of 17 foreign and 20 Syrian journalists are still being held by rebel groups or are missing, and an additional 40 Syrian journalists are being held by the government. This continued threat to the safety of journalists in Syria means many news organizations have pulled their reporters out of the country, resulting in a shortage of available reporting on a significant conflict. CJFE believes it is of the utmost importance that journalists be allowed to report freely, without the threat of kidnapping, attack or persecution. CJFE asks for the help of the Free Syrian Army in upholding media freedom in Syria, identifying those groups responsible for the kidnappings and to aid in the release of journalists currently being held. We thank you for your attention and I look forward to your reply. Yours sincerely, Arnold Amber, CJFE President
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