New York, August 27, 2004—The Committee to Protect Journalists today condemned as “senseless and reprehensible” the murder of Italian freelance journalist Enzo Baldoni, who disappeared while traveling to the southern city of Najaf last week and was kidnapped by a militant group.

The Qatar-based news channel Al-Jazeera reported late yesterday that it received a video from a group calling itself the Islamic Army in Iraq that showed Baldoni after the killing. The network did not air the videotape, it said, out of sensitivity to his family. Italian officials confirmed Al Jazeera’s report, according to Italy’s Ansa news agency.

Baldoni, 56, who normally wrote advertising copy, had gone to Iraq to do research for a book on militant groups, said Enrico Deaglio, editor of the Milan-based weekly magazine, Diario della Settimana. He said Baldoni had agreed to contribute freelance articles to Diario della Settimana from Iraq. The Italian Foreign Ministry reported Baldoni missing on August 20.

“We condemn this senseless and reprehensible act. Enzo Baldoni was not a party to the conflict in Iraq; he was a neutral observer reporting on events,” CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper said today. “The kidnapping and murder of innocent civilians, in this case a journalist, is a flagrant violation of international law. We call on all parties in Iraq to cease the targeting of journalists.

“Our deepest sympathies go out to Enzo Baldoni’s family and friends,” Cooper said.

In a video released earlier this week, the kidnappers demanded Italy withdraw its 3,000 troops from Iraq, and said it would not guarantee Baldoni’s safety if the demand was not met.

Baldoni was the 12th journalist to be abducted in Iraq this year; the others were all eventually released. Since March 2003 at least 32 journalists and 11 media workers have been killed in action in Iraq by Iraqi forces, armed groups, and U.S. troops.
Two French journalists remained missing today, more than a week after their disappearance. Christian Chesnot, a reporter with Radio France-Internationale, and Georges Malbrunot, a reporter with the French daily Le Figaro, have been out of contact with their news outlets since August 19, The Associated Press reported. Chesnot and Malbrunot were also believed to have been heading to Najaf, where U.S. forces had battled with Shiite insurgents for several weeks.