CNN producer kidnapped in Gaza City

New York, September 27, 2004—The Committee to Protect Journalists is gravely concerned about the kidnapping this evening of a CNN producer in Gaza City by unknown gunmen.

CNN reported that Riad Ali, a veteran producer for the station, was seized at gunpoint from a car in which he was a passenger with CNN colleagues, including correspondent Ben Wedeman.

In an interview on CNN, Wedeman said a gunman emerged from a white Peugeot, came toward the CNN team, and demanded to know which of them was Ali. After the CNN producer was identified, he was taken from the car by the gunman, Wedeman said. Several other armed men were with him.

The CNN team, which arrived in Gaza just a few hours before, was traveling on a main road when Ali was abducted about 6:30 p.m. local time. The Israeli daily Haaretz reported that two other members of the CNN crew were beaten and their equipment stolen.

Wedeman said the kidnappers did not wear masks or any clothing to conceal their identities, nor did they say why they were abducting Ali. No group immediately claimed responsibility for the abduction, or issued any demands in exchange for Ali’s release.

News reports said that Ali is a Palestinian with Israeli citizenship. CNN said Ali had handled a number of assignments in Gaza and the West Bank over the past several years. Several Palestinian journalists have been threatened or assaulted by masked gunmen in the past year in Gaza and the West Bank.

“We call on Riad Ali’s abductors to release him immediately and unconditionally,” CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper said.