BEIRUT: The family of a Lebanese journalist who disappeared in Syria this week appealed to local politicians to set aside their differences and work to secure his release.
Sky News Arabia announced Thursday that it had lost contact with Samir Kassab, a Lebanese cameraman, and reporter Ishak Moctar, a Mauritanian national, as well as their unnamed Syrian driver on Tuesday morning.
The last known location of Samir, 28, was in the countryside near Aleppo, according to his brother George.
George Kassab, Samir’s brother, said that Sky News was closely following the case amid scant details since his brother’s disappearance.
The Abu Dhabi-based channel appealed for information that would lead to their safe return.
George said the family was trying as much as possible to reach out to the media and to any officials, including President Michel Sleiman, who could help secure their brother’s return.
George said that his brother sought to cover Syria as part of his job with Sky News for the past year.
“We are not accusing anyone,” George said.
“My brother does not deal in politics, he is a professional,” he said.
Samir was preparing a documentary two days ago on Eid al-Adha celebrations in Aleppo, according to George.
George said that the family worried about Samir’s presence in Syria, an anxiety they expressed whenever he came back to Lebanon every two or three months.
“We would say ‘is there nothing else except Syria?’” he said.
George said his brother perhaps recognized that Syria presented a challenge and a rare career opportunity.
George called on Sleiman and other Lebanese officials and agencies to do what they would for his brother.
“I wish that politicians would keep the people out of their political disagreements,” George said.
“If he was kidnapped by the opposition or the army, in the end he is Lebanese,” he added.
The Samir Kassir Eyes Center, a local media watchdog, said that 20 journalists were currently missing in war-torn Syria, including the Sky News Arabia team.
“The SKeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom demands the immediate release of Samir Kassab and all the abductees in Syria, particularly the journalists,” the center said in a statement, calling Syria the world’s most dangerous place for journalists.
“Also, SKeyes asks the relevant groups to provide evidence showing that they are in good health, as well as any information that may lead to their release as soon as possible.”
A spokesman for Sky News Arabia said the channel had no further information on the circumstances of Samir’s disappearance.
The spokesman said the channel would only release verified information due to the sensitivity of the situation and to protect its journalists.
In its statement, the channel stressed its commitment to the safety of its staff.
Sky News Arabia’s chief Nart Bouran said the crew, who were covering the humanitarian dimensions of the crisis in Aleppo, were “dedicated to covering the news objectively, professionally and without bias.”