Italian journalist abducted

New York, February 4, 2005—The Committee to Protect Journalists is alarmed by the abduction of an Italian journalist today in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad. Gunmen seized Giuliana Sgrena, a reporter for the Rome-based Italian daily Il Manifesto, near Baghdad University, according to The Associated Press, which cited Italian and Iraqi officials.

Iraqi police said the armed men stopped Sgrena’s vehicle, released either one or two Iraqi reporters and a driver traveling with her, and fled the scene, according to international news reports. CNN’s Web site reported that Sgrena had been conducting interviews at Nahrain University, which shares a campus with Baghdad University.

Armed groups in Iraq have abducted at least 23 journalists since April 2004, when insurgents began a campaign of targeting foreigners for kidnapping. Twenty-one have been released to date, including French journalists George Malbrunot and Christian Chesnot who were freed in December 2004 after being held captive for four months by an Iraqi insurgent group. One hostage, Italian freelancer Enzo Baldoni, was executed by his captors last year.

Two other journalists remain missing in Iraq, including veteran French foreign correspondent Florence Aubenas of the daily newspaper Liberation, who was last seen in Baghdad on January 5 with her Iraqi translator, Hussein Hanoun al-Saadi.

“Nearly a week after elections we are reminded just how dangerous Iraq remains for so many, including those who are trying to report events to the rest of the world,” CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper said. “We deplore this despicable targeting of innocent civilians and call for the immediate release of our colleagues who are being held captive.”