Romanian journalists and translator appear on videotape

New York, March 31, 2005—Three missing Romanian journalists appeared in a videotape that was broadcast yesterday on the Arabic satellite channel Al-Jazeera.

According to press reports, the unnamed militant group holding the journalists has not made any public demands. On the tape, the captives are shown seated on the ground, with two masked men on either side pointing weapons at them. The broadcast was the captors’ first contact with the media

Reporter Marie Jeanne Ion and cameraman Sorin Dumitru Miscoci, of the Bucharest-based Prima TV, and reporter Ovidiu Ohanesian, of the daily Romania Libera, were seized near their hotel Monday evening after conducting an interview with interim Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi. A fourth person shown in the tape has been identified as Iraqi-American Mohamad Munaf, a translator for the journalists. According to Reuters, Munaf, who traveled with the group from Bucharest, also has Romanian citizenship.

After they were abducted, the journalists contacted the Prima TV staff by phone and were overheard during the call pleading for their lives, according to press reports. Ion also sent a text message to Prima TV indicating that the journalists had been kidnapped.
Insurgents in Iraq began abducting people in large numbers in April 2004. Of the 30 journalists kidnapped since then, two have been killed by their captors and 24 released. In addition to the three Romanian journalists, the French reporter Florence Aubenas of the newspaper Libération is still in captivity.
“We condemn this appalling targeting of innocent civilians and call for the immediate release of our colleagues who are being held captive,” says Ann Cooper of CPJ.