The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today welcomed the news that a kidnapped television correspondent was freed on Monday and that the US military said it would release an Iraqi cameraman on Wednesday.
“We welcome the news that one of our colleagues has been freed from his kidnappers and that another will be released from detention tomorrow,” said IFJ General Secretary Aidan White. “While the dangers facing Iraqi journalists and foreign correspondents covering the war remain, we are very happy to have some good news.”
Iraqi troops rescued Richard Butler, a British journalist for CBS News, in the southern city of Basra on Monday two months after he was kidnapped, CBS said. Butler was found in a house with a sack over his head and his hands tied, during an Iraqi military sweep in Basra. He was working as a producer for the programme 60 Minutes when he and his translator were abducted by gunmen from the Sultan Palace Hotel on February 10. The translator was released several weeks ago.
Separately on Monday, the U.S. military said it would release Associated Press photographer Bilal Hussein on Wednesday now that it has determined that he "no longer presents an imperative threat to security."
Last week a four-judge panel dismissed terrorism-related allegations against him and ordered Iraqi courts to "cease legal proceedings" and ruled that he should be "immediately" released unless other accusations were pending.
The IFJ and its affiliate The Newspaper Guild-CWA, which represents journalists in the US and Canada, have urged the US to release Hussein since his detention began two years ago. He was taken into US custody on April 12, 2006, but it was not announced that he was held until September.
“This is a long-overdue victory in the fight to clear Bilal’s name,” White said. “We are overjoyed by his release but regret the fact that he spent two years in custody despite clear evidence that he was guilty of nothing more than being a working journalist."
For more information contact the IFJ at +32 2 235 2207
The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries worldwide