IFJ Says Media face “hard choices” Over Iraq Coverage as Italian Journalist is Kidnapped

Giuliana Sgrena - © Il ManifestoThe latest kidnapping of an Italian journalist in Iraq, the second high profile media victim in recent weeks, is again forcing media to make “hard choices” about how to cover the country, says the International Federation of Journalists.

“Media organisations face hard choices. They must ensure that their people are not in harm’s way,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary, “but they cannot ignore the story. Journalism must not be intimidated.”

The IFJ says the country’s transition to democracy lacks all credibility when terrorists and bandits are targeting journalists. Giuliana Sgrena was kidnapped at around 2 p.m. near a Sunni mosque in the Al-Jadriya district, near Baghdad university. She was in a car with her interpreter, and she was on her way to interview a group of refugees from Fallujah.

She was in the middle of a conversation with an Italian fellow-journalist by mobile phone when gunmen aboard a minibus fired on her car, forcing it to stop. They drove off with Sgrena but left her fixer (whose identity has not been revealed). No group has so far claimed responsibility. Italian interior minister Giuseppe Pisanu said she could have been kidnapped by a Sunni group.

Her detention, following that of Florence Aubenas a senior reporter for the French daily paper Libération, who disappeared on 5 January along with her Iraqi interpreter Hussein Hanoun al-Saadi, has raised concerns of a new wave of attacks on journalists and media staff. “We have already lost our Italian colleague Enzo Baldoni in horrifying circumstances,” said White. “We must do everything we can not to have a repeat of that.”

Baldoni, aged 56, was a reporter for the Milan-based weekly Diario and volunteered for the Red Cross while in Iraq, his daughter, Gabriella Baldoni, said on Wednesday. "He was trying to save human lives in Najaf by helping a Red Cross convoy in a spirit of solidarity which has always underscored his thinking and his actions," she told Italian public television.

The IFJ is working with its Italian affiliate the Federazione Nazionale della Stampa Italiana (FNSI), in order to raise global awareness and to secure the safe release of our colleague Giuliana Sgrena. A demonstration is being organised by the Mayor's office in Rome tomorrow at 18.00 in order to protest over Sgrena's capture.

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