AFP photographer latest journalist abducted in Gaza

New York, January 2, 2007—The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns Monday’s abduction of an Agence France-Presse photographer in the Gaza Strip. Jaime Razuri, a veteran international journalist, was seized by a group of unmasked, armed men as he was entering the news agency’s bureau in Gaza City, AFP reported.

Razuri was returning from an assignment with an interpreter and driver when he was seized. No claim of responsibility was made and the motive for the kidnapping remained unknown, the news agency said. Razuri, a Peruvian national, was the 14th journalist abducted by gunmen in the Gaza Strip since 2004, according to CPJ research.

“This deplorable act underscores the impunity with which armed groups operate in Gaza, where they are free to attack members of the press,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “Jaime Razuri is a well-known professional who was serving witness to events in Gaza. There can be no justification for depriving him of his freedom, and we call on his captors to free him at once.”

Simon also called on the Palestinian Authority to seek Razuri’s freedom. “The Palestinian Authority must act decisively to locate our colleague and bring him to safety,” Simon said. “The failure to do so will further erode the ability of the media to report this critically important story.”

Razuri has more than a decade of experience with the news agency, having worked in Latin America, Europe, and the Middle East, AFP reported. He worked in Iraq in 2006.

CPJ research shows that all of the 13 previously abducted journalists were released unharmed, the majority after several hours in captivity. But in August 2006 a group called the Holy Jihad Brigades held Fox News Channel correspondent Steve Centanni and freelance cameraman Olaf Wiig for 13 days before releasing them unharmed.

Past kidnappings appeared to be the work of private individuals or groups seeking to exploit foreign hostages for political purposes or to use them as bargaining chips to secure the release of jailed relatives or to win government jobs. To CPJ’s knowledge, none of those responsible for abducting members of the media have ever been apprehended or brought to justice for their actions.