By John Millington
RUSSIAN journalist Anhar Kochneva is due to be executed by the so-called “Free Syrian Army” tomorrow unless the terrorist group’s demands are met.
Ms Kochneva, who has dual Russian and Ukrainian nationality was kidnapped in October by the FSA while she reported from the city of Homs.
The International Federation and its European group, the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) today called on those who hold the reporter to respect her right to life.
“This news is very alarming indeed and we are gravely concerned for the safety of Anhar Kochneva,” said IFJ President, Jim Boumelha.
“Those who are holding her will be held responsible for summary execution if she is killed.”
According to the Russian Union of Journalists (RUJ), an IFJ and EFJ affiliate, Ms Kochneva was kidnapped near the Syrian city of Homs at the beginning of October.
The union says that the journalist, who was reporting for a number of prominent Russian media from Syria, appeared on 7 November in a video published on the Internet, in which she appealed to the Embassies of Ukraine and Russia as well as the Syrian government to meet the demands of her kidnappers.
RUJ quoted family and friends as saying that she is held by two commanders of the Free Syrian Army, Aby Jamal and Farid Abu Hussein.
In a second video released on 28 November, the journalist read a text in Arabic, admitting to having “participated in the battles, translated for and supported Syrian and Russian officers, worked as a military interpreter,” added RUJ, noting that both appeals seemed to be made under pressure.
Ms Kochneva is believed to be politically sympathetic to Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad but no evidence has been produced to suggest that she is anything more than a journalist covering the Syrian conflict.
Her captors are believed to have demanded a ransom of 50 million US Dollars, threatening to execute the journalist tomorrow (13 December) if the payment is not made the RUJ has said.
The European Federation of Journalists has accused the FSA of putting the journalist’s life in danger for financial gains.
“This blatant use of journalists as a money spinning scheme is outrageous,’ added Arne König, EFJ President.
“She and her family should not be subjected to such a cruel blackmail. She should be released immediately and unharmed to be reunited with her relatives and colleagues.”
The case of Anhar Kochneva is a reminder of risks to journalists in the current Syrian conflict in which both sides have been accused of serious violations, including arbitrary arrests and detention, kidnappings as well as killings of journalists and media workers.
At least three other journalists and media staff are either missing or held by warring factions in Syria.
They include U.S. freelance journalist Austin Tice, who writes for The Washington Post and McClatchy newspapers and went missing in August 2012, Palestinian Bashar Fahmi al-Kadumi of the Arabic-language television channel Al-Hurra who disappeared during the same month in the city of Aleppo and Mustafa al-Khateeb, a Syrian interpreter who was arrested by the FSA in the city of Bab al Salameh in October.
Despite the dangers and serious question marks being raising over the activities and political intentions of Syrian rebel factions, U.S President Barack Obama yesterday endorsed the National Coalition as the “legitimate representative” of the Syrian people.
The Free Syrian Army (FSA) which is part of the main opposition group has “responsibilities,” Mr Obama said.
He add that they have to “make sure that they organise themselves effectively, that they are representative of all the parties, [and] that they commit themselves to a political transition that respects women’s rights and minority rights.”