French reporter abducted in Iraq pleads for help in video

New York, March 1, 2005—A French reporter who disappeared in Baghdad nearly two months ago appeared pleading for help in a videotape released today by her captors.

In the videotape, Florence Aubenas, a correspondent for the French daily Libération, is shown looking pale and tired and states that she is in bad health, The Associated Press (AP) reported. “Please help me. … It’s urgent,” Aubenas said. The journalist also pleaded for French lawmaker Didier Julia, who attempted to mediate the release of two other French journalists held hostage in Iraq last year, to help win her release.

The AP said it was not possible to verify when the tape was made. It is not known who abducted the journalist.

Aubenas and her Iraqi translator, Hussein Hanoun al-Saadi, were last seen leaving her Baghdad hotel on January 5. The tape is believed to be the first hard evidence released since her disappearance that Aubenas is alive. The video makes no mention of Al-Saadi, whose whereabouts remain unknown.

“We are relieved that Aubenas is alive, but we are appalled by her cruel abduction and poor physical condition. She should be released immediately,” said CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper.

Armed groups have kidnapped at least 26 journalists in Iraq since April 2004, when insurgents began targeting foreigners for abduction. At least one other journalist remains captive: Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena, a reporter for the Rome-based daily Il Manifesto, who was seized near Baghdad University. Last month, her kidnappers released a video showing her pleading for her life and calling on U.S. and coalition troops to leave Iraq.

Two other abducted journalists have been killed in Iraq: Italian Enzo Baldoni and Iraqi Raeda Wazzan.