Journalists Mourn Loss of Italian Reporter In Iraq: “Senseless Killing of a Caring Colleague”

The International Federation of Journalists today condemned the brutal assassination of Italian journalist Enzo Baldoni, who was taken hostage in Iraq as a desperate attempt by militants to force the Italian government to pull its troops out of the country.

“This is a senseless killing of a caring colleague,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary after the Arab satellite channel al-Jazeera television reported on Thursday that they had received film that showed Enzo Baldoni after he was killed. Earlier his kidnappers had circulated a film of him with threats that he would be killed unless Italy pulled its troops out of the country.

“Enzo Baldoni had a reputation as the best journalism has to offer,” said White. “He was a professional committed to the humanitarian cause. His killing is a savage reminder that there are no civilised values among those who target journalists in pursuit of impossible demands.”

The kidnappers had threatened to kill Baldoni unless Italy withdrew its 3,000 troops from Iraq within 48 hours. “This was never going to happen, but our colleague has been sacrificed while rhetoric was being exchanged that appeared to leave little room for sane and purposeful negotiation to end the crisis,” said White.

Ten days ago a similar hostage crisis involving a British journalist James Brandon was resolved after aides working with the cleric Moqtadar Sadr in Najaf pressed the kidnappers to free him. Baldoni and his driver-interpreter were caught in an ambush Friday between Baghdad and Najaf, scene of a Shiite Muslim rebellion. His driver was found dead on Saturday. He was held by a group calling itself the Islamic Army in Iraq.

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 still concerned over the fate of two French journalists Christian Chesnot, a reporter for Radio France, and Georges Malbrunot, a correspondent for the newspaper Le Figaro who went missing on Friday when they were to have left Baghdad for Najaf.

“We hope that renewed diplomatic efforts will succeed and that appeals on all sides for restraint will secure the release of our colleagues if they have been taken,” said White

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The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 100 countries.