Concern grows for kidnapped Fox News journalists

New York, August 17, 2006—The Committee to Protect Journalists voiced concern today for the safety of two Fox News Channel journalists seized in Gaza three days ago, and appealed to their kidnappers to release them.

No group has claimed responsibility for the abduction of the journalists from the U.S. television network, and the kidnappers have made no demands.

Correspondent Steve Centanni, 60, a U.S. citizen, and freelance cameraman Olaf Wiig, 36, a New Zealand citizen, were ambushed on Omar al-Mukhtar Street in the center of Gaza City on August 14. Two vehicles trapped the journalists’ satellite uplink truck marked “TV.” Gunmen forced the driver to the ground, and abducted the two journalists, the sources said. Witnesses told CPJ sources that the journalists were taken in a Mitsubishi Magnum pickup truck.

“Our concern for the safety and well being of our colleagues grows every day they are missing,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “We again call on those holding Steve Centanni and Olaf Wiig to free them at once. There can be no justification for the targeting of journalists, who are civilians, and who were in this case simply doing their jobs. Palestinian authorities must do everything in their power to help ensure the rapid release of these two journalists.”

The Associated Press quoted Palestinian officials as saying it was unusual for the kidnappers not to make any demands. Hamas, the Islamic group that leads the Palestinian government, issued a statement calling the abductions morally reprehensible. Palestinian Interior Minister Saeed Siyam ordered security forces to step up efforts to find the Fox News crew.

The two main journalists’ associations in Gaza also launched an appeal. The Palestinian Journalists Syndicate, a union controlled by the Palestinian Authority, and the
Palestinian Journalists’ Block, a committee run by Palestinian journalists, both issued statements calling for the release of the Fox News team.