August 23rd, 2013

Freelance Photog’s Tale of Abduction By Syrian Rebels Serves As Warning

Today The New York Times published a story about a freelance photographer’s abduction and captivity in Syria. The tale should serve as a warning for photojournalists—particularly those who are inexperienced—who might be inclined to freelance in a war zone.

Matthew Schrier was abducted in Aleppo on December 31, 2012, he told the Times, taken out of a taxi by Syrian rebels with ties to Al Qaeda and passed among rebel groups for seven months. According to the article by CJ Chivers, Schrier believes the driver of the taxi he was riding in out of Aleppo “probably” participated in his abduction.

“His experience reflects the sharply deteriorated climate for foreigners and moderate Syrians in areas subject to the whims of armed religious groups whose members roam roads, staff checkpoints and occupy a constellation of guerrilla bases,” Chivers writes.

Schrier’s captives accused him of working for the CIA, tortured and interrogated him, and assumed his identity online and communicated with his friends and family. In an account of one of the beatings Schrier suffered, Chivers writes, a captor asked Schrier, “Have you heard of Guantánamo Bay?”

When he escaped he left behind another American who couldn’t fit through the small basement window Schrier had slipped out of.

“Mr. Schrier’s detention is one of more than 15 cases of Westerners, mostly journalists, being abducted or disappearing in Syria this year,” Chivers writes. “The victims range from seasoned correspondents to new freelancers, like Mr. Schrier, who was covering his first war.”

Read the full story: http://nyti.ms/1c0IJfh