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Spanish journalists kidnapped by Islamist rebels in Syria are released

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) have welcomed the release of two Spanish journalists kidnapped by radical Islamist rebels in Syria six months ago.

El Mundo correspondent, Javier Espinosa, and freelance photographer, Ricardo Garcia Vilanova, were freed yesterday, Sunday, 30 March, and handed over to the Turkish military. They had been seized by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) near the Turkish border in September 2013.

The pair travelled to Madrid's Torrejon de Ardoz airbase yesterday where they were welcomed by their friends and family.

“We welcome the great news that Javier Espinosa and freelance photographer Ricardo Garcia Vilanova have been released and have been reunited with their loved ones," said IFJ President Jim Boumelha. "Following the release of journalist Marc Marginedas early in March, we can now celebrate the release of more of our Spanish colleagues.

”On this day of celebration we offer our thanks to our Spanish affiliates, the Federation of Journalists Unions (FeSP), the Spanish Press Federations of Journalists Associations (FAPE) and Periodistas de CCOO (FSC-CCOO), who never forgot their colleagues."

Freed El Mundo Middle East correspondent Javier Espinosa (R) laughs as his son runs towards him after his arrival at Torrejon de Ardoz airbase near Madrid on 30 March 2014
Freed El Mundo Middle East correspondent Javier Espinosa (R) laughs as his son runs towards him after his arrival at Torrejon de Ardoz airbase near Madrid on 30 March 2014

REUTERS/Paco Campos/Pool

In a joint statement, the Spanish unions expressed their joy and relief at the release of the journalists, while also calling for the many international and local journalists still being held to be released, with FeSP stating: “reporting in war zones is not being part of the conflict, but merely informing the world of what happens in those territories.”

Backing the call from the unions, EFJ President, Mogens Blicher Bjerregård, said: "We join our affiliates in welcoming this hugely positive news, but we also send a stark reminder that many more journalists are still being held in Syria, and we call for their immediate release.

"The large number of kidnappings in and around Syria should be registered with all possible knowledge as we must ensure that their kidnappers and the criminals behind them face justice when it is possible. Not a single kidnapping must be forgotten. We also have to urge our authorities to be very firm on that.”

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