French television soundman seized

New York, August 15, 2005—The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the abduction of a French television soundman on Sunday in the Gaza Strip and demands his immediate release.

Mohamed Ouathi of France 3 Television was forced into a car by three men with rifles as he walked to his hotel with colleagues in Gaza City, according to international press reports.
No group has claimed responsibility for the abduction. Ouathi was among the large media contingent covering Israel’s pullout from the Gaza Strip. Palestinian officials in Gaza have said they are helping to find Ouathi, a French national.

“There can be no justification for targeting a journalist, who was merely doing his job,” CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper said. “We deplore this act and call on those holding Mohamed Ouathi to release him at once and for Palestinian forces to do everything in their power to locate our colleague.”

Kidnappings, including those targeting members of the press, have been on the rise in Gaza over the last year. In separate incidents earlier this month gunmen seized five U.N. workers in the Gaza Strip, but released them unharmed the same day. In September 2004, CNN producer Riad Ali was seized at gunpoint from a car in which he was riding with CNN colleagues. He was released the next day unharmed. In May 2004, armed men attempted to bundle New York Times reporter James Bennet into a car while he stood outside a hospital in Gaza during an escalation in the fighting. He resisted his attackers and avoided capture.