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Two Turkish journalists, missing two months, are freed in Syria

May 12, 2012 |  9:55 am

BEIRUT -- Two Turkish journalists who had disappeared two months ago while reporting in Syria have been released by authorities there.

The journalists, Adem Ozkose and Hamit Coskun, were flown out of the country to Tehran, where they were waiting for a plane to take them home, Turkey's Anatolia news agency reported Saturday.

Ozkose and Coskun told the news agency they were in good health and were waiting to be reunited with their families.

Ozkose, a reporter for the magazine Gerçek Hayat and the daily Milat, and cameraman Coskun were in Syria’s northwest Idlib province filming a documentary when they disappeared March 9. Like many journalists who have reported from Syria, they had entered the country illegally from Turkey.

The journalists, as well as some Syrians who were accompanying them, were abducted by militia members known as shabiha at a checkpoint outside a Shiite town in the predominantly Sunni province, Reporters Without Borders said.

Rebels in Idlib said the pair had gone to the Shiite town to interview residents there about a string of revenge kidnappings between members of both sects when they were taken themselves.

Leaders within the rebel ranks said they tried to negotiate for the journalists’ release but weren't successful. Eventually the Turks were handed over to Syrian authorities.

Iran was said to have played a large role in negotiating their release, acting as a mediator, since Turkey’s relations with Syria have soured in the 14-month uprising against President Bashar Assad.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan has been unequivocal in his criticism of Assad’s brutal crackdown on dissent. In March, Turkey recalled its ambassador and closed the embassy in Damascus. 

Since the Syrian uprising began last year in March, the country has been a dangerous place for foreign journalists to work. Most are not allowed to enter the nation and those who have received permission are often monitored. As a result, some journalists have sneaked into the country.

Reporters Without Borders has recorded six journalist deaths since the beginning of the year, including Remi Ochlik and Marie Colvin, who were killed while reporting on a monthlong bombardment of the Baba Amr neighborhood in Homs.

"Their release is a big relief," the group said regarding the Turkish journalists. "But more than 37 journalists and citizen journalists are still detained in Syria. We must not forget them."

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-- Times staff

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