The release of two television journalists held hostage in Palestine was welcomed by journalists in the region today, but their joy was tempered with the news that two people were killed and 20 others were injured in a bomb attack on Iraq’s largest newspaper in Baghdad.
The International Federation of Journalists congratulated Arab journalists’ groups and its affiliate in Palestine for their vigorous protests in response to the IFJ’s appeal for co-ordinated action to secure the release of captured Fox News journalists Steve Centanni and cameraman Olaf Wiig who were freed yesterday.
“Arab journalists and our Palestinian colleagues in particular played a key role in making it clear that taking hostages in this way does terrible damage to the Palestinian cause,” said Aidan White IFJ General Secretary, who singled out Palestinian journalists’ leader Naim Toubassi, a member of the IFJ Executive, and members of the Palestine Journalists Syndicat in Gaza, who led the public campaign on the spot to get militants to release the journalists. “We are greatly indebted to these colleagues in Gaza and the region for their prompt response.”
Meanwhile, the IFJ condemned a suicide car bomb attack on Al-Sabah, a national newspaper financed by the Shiite-led Iraqi government, on Sunday, detonating the vehicle inside the fortified compound in Baghdad. The bombing also destroyed more than a dozen vehicles and caused the collapse of a quarter of the building where journalists and printing-press operators work, according to the executive editor, Falah al-Mishaal.
The attack was the second on Al-Sabah in three months. On May 6, a suicide bomber in a car set off an explosion at the newspaper's main vehicle checkpoint, killing one person and wounding several others. The attack is another case of targeted attacks on media and follows the killing of three journalists in separate incidents earlier this month.
“This latest attack is further evidence that the crisis of targeting journalists in Iraq has intensified,” said White. “It is impossible now for journalists – foreign or local – to report freely in Baghdad without taking terrible risks.”
Meanwhile, the IFJ has called on Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to investigate a fire-bombing at the home of the head of the Bethlehem-based Nativity TV station on Friday when two flaming petrol-bombs were thrown at the house and car of Samir Qumsieh, the station’s general manager. No-one was hurt in the incident. The station says that threats have been received in the past because of the Christian orientation of the station.
For further information contact the IFJ: +32 2 235 22 07
The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 110 countries