PARIS — Four French journalists held hostage in Syria for 10 months have been released, officials said Saturday, the latest batch of reporters to be freed in what has become the world’s deadliest conflict for the media.
President Francois Hollande’s office said in a statement that he felt “immense relief” over the release of Edouard Elias, Didier Francois, Nicolas Henin and Pierre Torres — all said to be in good health in neighboring Turkey despite the “very trying conditions” of their captivity.
“We are very happy to be free ... and it’s very nice to see the sky, to be able to walk, to be able to ... speak freely,” said Francois, who works for Europe 1 radio, in footage recorded by the private Turkish news agency DHA as the journalists left a police station.
Elias, a freelance photographer, also was working for Europe 1 radio. Henin and Torres are freelance journalists.
A DHA report said soldiers on patrol found the four blindfolded and handcuffed in Turkey’s southeast Sanliurfa province late Friday.
Turkish television also aired images of the four at the police station and then a local hospital.
It wasn’t clear whether a ransom had been paid for their release, nor which group in Syria’s chaotic 3-year-old conflict held the men. In his statement, Hollande thanked “all those” who contributed to the journalists’ release without elaborating. Longstanding French practice is to name a specific country that contributed to hostage releases. France denies it pays ransom to free its hostages.
Hollande’s office said the four would return soon to France. It did not provide details about the conditions of their release.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said in a statement that freedom for the hostages “was the result of long, difficult, precise, and necessarily discrete work.”
Journalists around France rejoiced at the news of their colleagues’ liberation.