The International Federation of Journalists today warned of a potential information blackout in the Gaza Strip following the kidnapping of a media staffer working for France 3 Television.
Yesterday, 47-year-old Mohammad Wadohi, an Algerian Muslim with French citizenship, working as a soundman for the French public service channel3, was kidnapped near his hotel in Gaza City. Three kidnappers armed with rifles threatened Ouathi, pulled him into a white Subaru and drove away to an unknown destination.
“This abduction of a foreign media staffer is a dangerous precedent during the on-going evacuation of Israeli colonies,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. “It points to a clear and present question of safety for all journalists attempting to report independently on this major political breakthrough”.
The kidnapping of foreign staff, journalists, UN humanitarian aid workers and other internationals by armed people has developed as a growing phenomenon in the last two months in Gaza. According to the Al-Mezan Human Rights Center there have been up to 21 foreigners taken hostage since July this year.
The IFJ affiliate, the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate (PJS) denounced the kidnapping and called on the kidnappers to release him immediately. The PJS condemned the hostage-taking as a “cowardly and irresponsible act”.
“With some 700 foreign journalists in Gaza City to cover Palestinian preparations for the disengagement, a double-edged sword is now pointed at all media working in the region,” said White. “Both Israeli restrictions on freedom of movement for local journalists and the potential for increased targeting of foreign reporters pave the way for a blackout in the strip”.
Earlier this month, gunmen abducted five foreign United Nations workers in two separate incidents in the Gaza Strip and last year, gunmen kidnapped Riad Ali, an Israeli-Arab producer for CNN. All were freed unharmed within hours.
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The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 110 countries