A Turkish journalist who had been missing in Syria for a week, reportedly detained by government forces, has appeared on television in a video initially broadcast by the Syrian Al-Ikhbariya news channel.
On Monday, Turkish channel NTV showed the video, in which Cuneyt Unal says that he entered Aleppo with members of a number of foreign militant groups.
Unal, a cameraman for US-funded Al-Hurra network was in Aleppo with his colleague, Palestinian reporter Bashar Fahmi, who is still missing.
The journalist seems unsure of himself throughout the video, which opens with a picture of him holding a rocket-propelled grenade launcher, and he appears to have bruises under both his eyes.
Foreign Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu has rejected the claims in the video, arguing that Unal was forced to recite a statement dictated to him by his captors. He said that the cameraman’s trip to Syria was made for purely journalistic intentions and noted: “The Syrian state is responsible for his wellbeing.”
Media groups call for immediate release
Turkish media organisations have jointly called on the Syrian government to free Unal and ensure that he is kept free from harm.
A statement from the Turkish Association of News Cameramen said: “We condemn the video footage related to cameraman Cuneyt Unal. Unal has been a cameraman for the past 17 years and he has been our member for the past 15 years. The best response to the Syrian TV channel’s arguments that Unal was a spy is the award Unal received last year for the best news footage of the year.”
“Unal was in Syria for reporting purposes and he has worked for many respectable organisations, including CNN Turk and TRT Turk. Unal was in Syria to convey the developments in the country through his camera. We demand an urgent release of Cuneyt Unal and Bashar Fahmi," added the statement.
The US Broadcasting Board of Governors has also called on the captors to release Unal. In a statement, BBG board-member and chairman of the Middle East Broadcasting Networks, which operates Al-Hurra, Michael Meehan said: “This video is deeply disturbing and underscored the perilous situation for these journalists.”
He added: “They entered Syria only to report the news. We call for their immediate release and we urge the Syrian government to take action to ensure their safety.”
Journalists continue to go missing
Unal’s appearance of Syrian state TV follows the disappearance of US freelance reporter, Austin Tice last week.
Fears have been raised about the treatment of journalists from both sides of the conflict, with a number of state-owned media outlets and journalists as well as international and freelance reporters being targeted in recent months.
Journalists have also expressed their fears and frustrations while attempting to cover the ongoing conflict.
The death toll of reporters and citizen journalists killed in Syria since the beginning of the conflict, some 17 months ago, currently stands at 59, according to the Doha Centre for Media Freedom.
Source: AFP, DCMF