“Day of Joy” says IFJ as Release of Florence Aubenas and Hussein Hanoun Sparks Call for New Safety Measures

Hussein Hanoun / Florence Aubenas

The International Federation of Journalists today welcomed the release of French journalist Florence Aubenas and her interpreter Hussein Hanoun al-Saadi after over five months in hostage and called for new safety measures to protect all journalists working in Iraq .

“It is a day of joy for everyone in journalism,” said Aidan White , IFJ General Secretary. “ Florence is an inspiration to journalists the world over showing great courage and fortitude throughout her ordeal but now we sincerely hope that no journalist will ever have to undergo this cruelty again”.

On 11 June, Aubenas, 43, a senior reporter for the French daily paper Libération, and her Iraqi interpreter Hussein Hanoun al-Saadi were freed after having been held hostage for 157 days. They were last seen leaving their hotel in Baghdad on 5 January and the only other public sign that they were alive came in a videotape — apparently recorded by her captors — that emerged on 1 March.

"In a country plagued by violence and insecurity both Iraqi and foreign journalists continue to be major targets," said White. "If change is to come then new safety measures must be put in place".

On April 8 this year, the IFJ opened a safety centre in Baghdad to provide round the clock assistance to journalists working in one of the most dangerous places in the world. The centre is in the process of drafting guidelines on safety precautions for journalists in Iraq.

The centre has produced and issued media and journalists in Iraq with a special safety package -- an Iraqi edition of the safety manual Live News in Arabic, first aid kits, and a CD-Rom guide to security and protection for media staff.

Since the invasion of Iraq in March 2003, up to 33 journalists have been taken hostage, of which 30 were released and 3 executed. In this time period, at least 85 journalists and media staff have been killed. The number also includes 14 deaths at the hands of US troops, which have prompted the IFJ and others to demand independent reports on the circumstances.

The IFJ is meeting this week with journalists in Iraq to discuss ways of improving the perilous situation that many journalists face in the country. A series of hostile-training programs have taken place in recent months in Iraq and the IFJ is planning fresh activities in the south in the coming days.

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The IFJ represents more than 500,000 journalists in more than 110 countries