The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today called on the government of Chad to release journalists accused along with members of a French NGO of kidnapping children from the border between Chad and the Darfur region in Sudan.
“Regardless of the merits of the kidnapping case against the members of the group that planned to transport the children, the journalists documenting it should not be considered accomplices,” said IFJ General Secretary Aidan White. “They are only observers and should be released immediately and all charges against them should be dropped.”
The case involves a French group called Zoe's Ark, which has told the press it wanted to help the children, not abduct them. Members of the group were attempting to fly with 103 children from Chad to France where the children were supposed to live with host families. The French government has condemned the operation and its ambassador has said those involved would face the Chadian justice system.
Two journalists who were covering Zoe’s Ark while it was in Chad are being tried with the members of the group. A third journalist who appears to have been with the group for personal and not professional reasons is also being charged. In all 9 French nationals, including the three journalists and six associated with the NGO, are being charged with kidnapping the children. Seven Spanish nationals who were working as the flight crew for the plane chartered to transport the children are being charged as accomplices.
The IFJ and French affiliates SNJ and SNJ-CGT say that journalists covering this event are protected under international law and should not be subject to official action.
“It’s a grave mistake to confuse the work of journalists with that of their subjects,” said White. “We urge the authorities in Chad to clear the journalists who were with Zoe’s Ark for professional reasons of any charges and to release them immediately.”
For more information contact the IFJ at 32 2 235 2207
The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 114 countries worldwide.