Kidnapped Photojournalist, Reporter Freed In Syria
UPDATE: Read about their emotional return to Madrid, as reported by The Guardian.
DURHAM, NC (March 30, 2014) – Photojournalist Ricardo Garcia-Vilanova, kidnapped along with reporter Javier Espinosa in northern Syria last September, was freed along with Espinosa on Saturday night near Tal Abiyad.
They were handed over to Turkish authorities not far from where they were kidnapped 194 days ago. They are said to be in good health and they have now crossed over into Turkey.
Espinosa is a correspondent for the Spanish daily newspaper El Mundo, and the photojournalist had been working with him on assignment when they were snatched.
The two had been held in the city of Raqaa, according to The Guardian. According to El Mundo, the pair were stopped at a checkpoint manned by fighters from Al Qaeda in Iraq on September 16, 2013, shortly after they crossed into Syria from Turkey.
Garcia-Vilanova's photography was featured in NPPA's News Photographer magazine in 2010 for a special feature called "Photographer and War." Speaking about his work, at that time in Afghanistan, he said, "I wish I could not take pictures of war, death, suffering and misery, because that would mean that it does not exist. But the reality of the world that surrounds us, this is not. So I try to do the best I will do. I think the best thing that I can do, which I am trying to show, is to raise awareness, to protest against indifference in order to achieve a change."
More than 40 Western hostages from 10 countries remain missing, including American video journalist James Foley. Many authorities believe Foley and the others are also captive in Raqaa. The city fell to radical militants – including the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) – in May, and Raqaa is a stronghold for Syrian opposition groups who fled there in retreat from the Syrian rebels.
Ricardo Garcia-Vilanova is a widely-published and acclaimed war photographer whose work as appeared in the world's major newspapers and magazines. In recent years his conflict photography includes Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria. He has also collaborated with humanitarian NGOs such as the International Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders, Human Rights Watch, and others. He also shoots video, freelancing for CNN, ITN, Reuters TV, Euronews, France24, and MSNBC.