CPJ renews call for release of abducted AFP photographer

January 3, 2007 12:00 PM ET

New York, January 3, 2007—Amid growing Palestinian and international condemnation of the kidnapping of Agence France-Presse photographer Jaime Razuri, the Committee to Protect Journalists today renewed its call for his immediate release.

Razuri, who was seized by gunmen in the Gaza Strip on Monday, was the 14th journalist to be abducted since 2004, according to CPJ research. There has been no public claim of responsibility for the abduction of Razuri, a Peruvian national.

“These kidnappings have already curtailed the ability of international journalists to work in Gaza, stifling coverage of a story of enormous global significance,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “We call on those holding our colleague Jaime Razuri to release him immediately,”

Razuri’s abduction has been condemned worldwide and in the occupied Palestinian territories. The Hamas-led government of Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniya and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas have denounced the kidnapping, as have all major Palestinian political groups. Razuri’s colleagues have issued appeals on local Palestinian radio stations, according to international press reports. Yesterday, around 100 of Razuri’s colleagues, family members, and friends held a vigil in downtown Lima, Peru, calling for his release.

Razuri has worked for AFP in Latin America, Europe, and the Middle East. All of those previously abducted in Gaza were eventually released unharmed, often after several hours in captivity.

Once rare, kidnappings have been on the rise in Gaza since 2004. Past abductions appear to be the work of private individuals or groups seeking to exploit foreign hostages for political purposes or using them as bargaining chips to secure the release of colleagues or relatives imprisoned by the Palestinian Authority or to win government jobs.

To CPJ’s knowledge, none of those responsible for abducting members of the media have apprehended or brought to justice for their actions.

“The Palestinian Authority must do everything in its power to locate our colleague and bring him to safety,” Simon added.

For a chronology of kidnappings in the Gaza Strip see below:

Journalists Abducted in the Gaza Strip since 2004 (14)

2007

January 1, 2007
Jaime Razuri, Agence France-Presse
Razuri, a veteran staff photographer for AFP, was seized by a group of unmasked, armed men as he was entering the news agency’s bureau in Gaza City, AFP reported. He had been returning from an assignment with his interpreter and driver. There has been no claim of responsibility and the motive for the kidnapping remains unknown, the news agency said.

2006

October 24, 2006
Emilio Morenatti, The Associated Press
Morenatti, an Associated Press photographer, was abducted by unidentified Palestinian gunmen as he walked out of his apartment in Gaza City towards his driver and interpreter Majed Hamdan, the AP reported. Hamdan said four gunmen grabbed his keys and phone and told him to turn away, pressing a gun to his head, and threatening to harm him. The gunmen shoved Morenatti into a white Volkswagen and sped off.

He was released later that day. The AP said no group claimed responsibility for the kidnapping.

August 14, 2006
Steve Centanni and Olaf Wiig, Fox News Channel

Centanni and Wiig, a correspondent and freelance cameraman respectively for Fox News Channel, were ambushed by gunmen on Omar al-Mukhtar Street in the center of Gaza City and abducted. Two vehicles trapped the journalists’ satellite uplink truck marked “TV.” Gunmen forced the driver to the ground, and abducted the two journalists. A previously unknown group called the Holy Jihad Brigades later claimed responsibility. The group demanded the release of Muslim prisoners held by the United States. The journalists were released unharmed on August 27.

March 14, 2006
Caroline Laurent, ELLE
Alfred Yaghobzadeh, SIPA
Yong Tae-young, KBS
Laurent, a reporter for the French women’s weekly ELLE, Yaghobzadeh, a photographer from the photo agency SIPA, and Tae-young, a correspondent for South Korea’s public broadcaster KBS, were taken at the Al-Dira hotel in Gaza by gunmen. All three were released unharmed 22 hours later. Palestinian security services said the kidnappers were members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Reuters reported at the time. The abductions came after Israeli forces stormed a prison in the West Bank town of Jericho and seized a PFLP leader, Ahmad Saadat, and five other group members held in connection with the assassination of an Israeli minister.

2005

October 12, 2005
Dion Nissenbaum, Knight Ridder
Adam Pletts, Knight Ridder
Nissenbaum, a U.S. reporter for the Knight Ridder newspaper chain, and British photographer Pletts, a freelancer working for the news organization, were abducted by armed gunmen in the southern Gaza Strip. “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. The journalists were freed later that day after several hours in captivity. 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.

On September 10, 2005
Lorenzo Cremonesi, Corriere della Serra
Italian journalist Cremonesi of the newspaper Corriere della Serra was abducted by masked gunmen in the town of Deir el-Balah in the central Gaza Strip. He was released later that day unharmed.

August 15, 2005
Mohammed Ouathi of France 3

Ouathi, a soundman for French television channel France 3, was forced into a car on August 15 by three men with rifles as he walked to his hotel in Gaza City with France 3 colleagues. He was released on August 22. No group claimed responsibility for Ouathi’s abduction. Reuters reported that a Palestinian militant umbrella group called the Popular Resistance Committees said it had helped mediate Ouathi’s release but it did not identify the kidnappers.

January 8, 2005
Ramon Lobo and Carmen Secanella, El Pais
Lobo and Secanella, a reporter and photographer respectively for the Spanish daily El Pais, were briefly abducted by masked gunmen in Gaza’s Khan Younes refugee camp. They were released unharmed 90 minutes later.

2004

September 27, 2004
Riad Ali, CNN
Ali, a producer for CNN, was seized at gunpoint in Gaza City from a car with other CNN colleagues. He was freed the following day.

CNN said a tape surfaced shortly before Ali's release in which the producer said he was being held by the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, a militant Palestinian group with ties to Fatah, the group headed by Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. The Brigade had earlier denied involvement in the kidnapping, and had joined other groups in condemning it.

Ali said on the tape that he is a Druze, a minority Arab population in Israel whose members often serve in the Israeli army. He called for the Druze not to serve in the Israeli army. No demands were made.

Statistics:

By Year:
2007: 1
2006: 6
2005: 6
2004: 1

By Nationality:
Spanish: 4
U.S.: 2
French: 2
Other European and Asian countries: 6

By Gender:
Men: 12
Women: 2

By Job:
Photojournalists: 6 (Includes still photographers and camera operators.)
Reporters: 6
Producers: 1
Technicians: 1

By Location:
Gaza City: 9
Khan Younes: 4
Deir al-Balah: 1


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