French President François Hollande declared his huge relief on Saturday, in announcing the liberation of the four journalists, who had been held for almost a year. He added that they would arrive on French soil during the day.
Hollande said that the men were in good health, "despite the very challenging conditions of their captivity”. Images by Turkish media showed the men with long hair and full beards, but visibly strong.
Edouard Elias, Didier François, Nicolas Hénin and Pierre Torres were found abandoned on Friday night by Turkish soldiers, according to the Turkish press agency Dogan.
They had been tied up and blindfolded, and left in a deserted area on the border between Turkey and Syria. The men were then taken to the nearest police station in the town of Akçakale.
Didier François was working as a reporter for Europe 1 radio, along with photographer Edouard Elias, when they were taken in Aleppo on 6 June 2013. Nicolas Hénin, reporting for Le Point, and independent photographer Pierre Torrès were taken two weeks later on 22 June in Raqqa.
According to several press freedom organisations, Syria has become the most dangerous country in the world for journalists. At the end of March, two Spanish journalists, Javier Espinosa and Ricardo Garcia Vilanova, were released after being held hostage for six months by an Al-Qaeda-linked group.
President Hollande said, following Saturday’s hostage release, that he remained committed to the release of two French nationals still being held in the Sahel. He reiterated his “support” and “determination” in securing their freedom.