Journalists still missing one year on

New York, February 2, 2007—The Committee to Protect Journalists is deeply concerned that more than a year after Iraqi journalists Marwan Ghazal and Reem Zaeed were abducted by gunmen in Baghdad they remain missing.

“The plight of Marwan Ghazal and Reem Zaeed underscores the enormous dangers faced by all journalists covering this conflict, but especially those largely anonymous, local reporters who are most at risk,” CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon said. “Alive or dead they must not be forgotten. If they are still being held, Iraqi authorities should do everything to find them.”

Ghazal and Zaeed, who worked for the Iraqi satellite channel Al-Sumaria, were seized by several gunmen driving a blue Opel car outside the offices of the Iraqi Islamic Party in Baghdad’s Yarmouk district at midday on February 1, 2006, according to a family member of one of the journalists and a news editor at Al-Sumaria.

The abduction occurred when Zaeed went to pick up Ghazal from a press conference at which the Iraqi Islamic Party had accused Iraqi police and security forces of human rights abuses, according to a source at Al-Sumaria. Zaeed had been coming from her own assignment, reporting on a meeting at the Baghdad offices of the Red Crescent. CPJ sources said that the gunmen ordered Zaeed and Ghazal to get out of the car, assaulted one of Zaeed’s cameramen who resisted, and drove off with the two journalists.

Journalists from Al-Sumaria say there has been no news of Ghazal and Zaeed’s whereabouts and that their captors have made no effort to contact Al-Sumaria or the journalists’ families. They also expressed the concern of journalists that the authorities had failed to take action, noting that a description of the kidnappers and their vehicle was provided to the interior ministry.

Ghazal and Zaeed, both in their early 20s, had started out at Al-Sumaria less than five months before their abduction. Al-Sumaria is a privately-owned Iraqi Satellite TV Network established in 2004.

According to CPJ research, at least 43 journalists have been abducted since 2004. CPJ is investigating the circumstances behind the abductions of five other journalists seized in the last year to determine if their abduction was related to their work.