Missing Journalists Spark IFJ Fears That Foreign Reporters Are Prime Targets In Iraq

The news that two French journalists, George Malbrunot working for Le Figaro newspaper and Christian Chesnot of Radio France Internationale, have not been heard of since last Thursday, and that the interpreter working for missing Italian reporter Enzo Baldoni has been found dead, has raised fears that journalists are now the number one target of kidnappers in Iraq says the International Federation of Journalists.

A fourth Western journalist, French-American Micah Garen, who was held hostage with his interpreter and shown on television and threatened by kidnappers, was released yesterday after aides to the militant Shia cleric Moqtada Sadr had worked to secure his release.

“The numbers of foreign journalists missing is rising and we fear that journalists are now becoming the number one target of armed militants,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. “This is a troubling development. Killing and threatening to murder unarmed civilians are acts of inhumanity that provide shocking evidence of the continuing security crisis in Iraq.”

The editor-in-chief of Mr Baldoni's magazine, Diario, said the interpreter's body was found near Najaf, where militants have been battling US-led forces for weeks. The last contact with Mr Baldoni had been on Thursday.

"There is a real fear of kidnapping here, and the killing of the interpreter adds to our concerns,” said White.

Meanwhile, the IFJ is in contact with colleagues working for French media following the news that there had been no trace of the two missing French reporters since last Thursday evening. A joint statement by Le Figaro and Radio France Internationale said the two news organisations were "concerned” about the two men who are acknowledged as specialists in reporting from Iraq.

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