Press syndicate demands release of Lebanese journalist

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Houssam Itani, brother of kidnapped journalist Fidaa, speaks during a solidarity gathering at the Lebanese Press Syndicate in Beirut on 30 October 2012. (Photo: Al-Akhbar - Marwan Tahtah)

Published Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Friends and colleagues of abducted Lebanese journalist Fidaa Itani renewed calls for his release Tuesday evening during a press conference at the Lebanese Press Syndicate in Beirut.

“His only fault was trying to inform the Lebanese citizens of the realities in Syria,” Mohammed Baalbaki, syndicate president, told an audience of mostly journalists who gathered in support of Itani.

Itani, a former Al-Akhbar journalist who currently reports for LBC International, was abducted by a Syrian rebel group that calls itself the Northern Storm Brigades in the northern town of Azaz on Saturday.

Fidaa was an outspoken supporter of the Syrian uprising.

The rebel group issued a statement Sunday on its Facebook page promising to release Itani within a few days. Rumors surfaced the following day that he would be released within 48 hours, but he is still being held.

Nadim Houry, Human Rights Watch deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa, reminded the audience that Itani was not the only journalist being held in Syria.

At least four other non-Syrian journalists “that we know of” have been kidnapped while at least 23 journalists have been killed while covering the 19-month long conflict in Syria, Houry said.

The number of missing journalists from Syria is unknown, he added.

“It is time to stand in solidarity with all of them,” Houry said.

Thaer Ghandour, a journalist for Mayadeen who used to work with Itani at Al-Akhbar, said Itani left the comforts of the office and put himself in harm’s way to report first hand on the atrocities of war.

Itani’s brother, Houssam, also spoke at the gathering.

“He [Fidaa] was showing the Syrian tragedies to the world,” he, said, adding that journalists ought to have the right to express their opinions freely.

(Al-Akhbar)

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