Two foreign journalists briefly abducted in Gaza

New York, October 12, 2005
—The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the abduction of a U.S. journalist and a British colleague who were held for several hours and released unharmed on Wednesday in the Gaza Strip. The abductions are part of an alarming spate of kidnappings of foreign journalists in Gaza, CPJ research shows.

Dion Nissenbaum, a U.S. reporter for the Knight Ridder newspaper chain, and British photographer Adam Pletts, a freelancer working for the news organization, were freed Wednesday night after several hours in captivity, The Associated Press reported.

“A car followed our vehicle for three or four minutes and then stopped us. Six gunmen pointed their weapons and said ‘We want the foreigners,’ ” Ziad Abu Mustafa, a Palestinian interpreter who was with the journalists, told Reuters. He said the captors ordered him to stay behind as they drove off with the two journalists, heading toward the southern Gaza town of Rafah.

Palestinian security officials said the men were kidnapped by renegade members of the ruling Fatah party, CPJ sources said. They said Fatah officials and Palestinian security officers negotiated their release.

“We’re relieved that our colleagues were released unharmed, but deplore the senseless and unacceptable attacks against journalists who are merely doing their job,” CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper said.

Kidnappings, including those targeting members of the press, have been on the rise in Gaza over the last year. Italian journalist Lorenzo Cremonesi, of the newspaper Corriere della Serra, was abducted on September 10 by masked gunmen in the town of Deir el-Balah in the central Gaza. He was released unharmed later that day.

In separate incidents during August, gunmen seized five UN workers in the Gaza Strip, but released them unharmed the same day. On August 15, soundman Mohammed Ouathi of France 3 television was kidnapped and held for eight days by unidentified gunmen in Gaza.

Some Gaza kidnappings appear to be efforts by armed Palestinian factions to embarrass the Palestinian Authority and use hostages as bargaining chips to win the release of imprisoned comrades.