CPJ calls for release of Italian journalist in Afghanistan

New York, March 9, 2007—The Committee to Protect Journalists joins colleagues in Afghanistan and around the world in calling for the release of La Repubblica correspondent Daniele Mastrogiacomo, missing since Sunday when he was abducted in southern Afghanistan.

Mastrogiacomo appears to be held by a Taliban military group, which has told media organizations they are investigating the possibility that the reporter was a spy for the British. Helmand, the province in which he was seized with two Afghan assistants, is in the midst of the heaviest round of fighting between U.S., NATO, and Taliban forces since the U.S.-led invasion of 2001.

La Repubblica editors say the allegations of spying are utterly false, and Mastrogiacomo is a journalist with 27 years of experience who was working on assignment for the paper at the time he was seized. The paper has launched a public campaign for his release.

La Repubblica Director Ezio Mauro said in a statement that Mastrogiacomo “has no relationship whatsoever, neither with military organisms nor with police or intelligence services of any kind or country. He is in Afghanistan exclusively and solely in order to report the news.”

“Daniele Mastrogiacomo has had a long and well-established career in journalism, reporting from areas of conflict all around the world,” said Joel Simon, CPJ’s executive director. “His record clearly demonstrates that he has reported professionally throughout the world and had come to Afghanistan with the sole intention of telling the vital stories of its people.”

The 52-year-old Mastrogiacomo was born in Pakistan, where his father was an engineer for an Italian company. He has dual Italian-Swiss citizenship, but was traveling with his Italian passport, La Repubblica said. The paper said Mastrogiacomo has worked since 2002 as a staff correspondent in Afghanistan, Iran, Israel, Gaza, Lebanon, and Iraq.