The International Federation of Journalists and leading journalists’ groups from around the Arab World have made a dramatic appeal to regional governments and to Palestinian leaders to put more pressure on groups who are kidnapping journalists and media staff.
Following the release of a video of two Fox News journalists abducted in the Gaza Strip ten days ago and reports of new threats to media staff in the region, journalists warn that groups taking reporters hostage and making threats to media staff are doing “incalculable harm to the Palestinian cause and the democratic aspirations of the people in the region.”
Journalists unions in Jordan, Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Kuwait, Lebanon, Iraq, Bahrain, Algeria, Yemen and the United Arab Emirates, supported also by the Federation of Arab Journalists, have issued appeals to their local governments and to Palestinian political leaders to intervene urgently to secure the release of the two Fox journalists, Steve Centanni, a 60-year-old American, and New Zealand cameraman Olaf Wiig, 36, were taken hostage on August 14 in Gaza City.
They are held by the so-called Holy Jihad Brigades who have demanded the release of “Muslim prisoners.” Until yesterday’s statement no one had claimed responsibility for the abduction, which is now the longest-lasting in Gaza for more than a year, says the IFJ.
In a co-ordinated protest the unions have also taken up the warning from the Foreign Press Association in Israel which yesterday warned its members of kidnapping threats against foreign journalists in Gaza. The Association, which represents 400 journalists working for international news organisations in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza Strip, stressed that although credible sources tell them that British and American correspondents may be most at risk, there is a threat to all foreign media staff.
“These are alarming developments which must be taken seriously,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. “It is impossible to report freely when there is a threat of being kidnapped the moment you leave the security of your office or a hotel room.”
The IFJ and other journalists’ groups in their joint statement say:
“We appeal to political leaders of all parties and governments within the Arab world to use their influence to try to secure the release of our two colleagues. These kidnappings are a threat to all of us and cast a shadow over journalism not just in Palestine, but throughout the region.
“Taking journalists or other media staff hostage is a frightening and intolerable form of intimidation that not only threaten press freedom and the lives of innocent civilians it does incalculable harm to the Palestinian cause and the democratic aspirations of all people in the region.
“We the journalists of the region call for all threats to be lifted, for our colleagues to be released and for all journalists to be able to move freely in carrying out their work. Journalists are unarmed combatants. They are not engaged in any hostile activity and their rights must be protected under international humanitarian law.”
For further information contact the IFJ +32 2 235 22 00
The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 120 countries