Abducted Iraqi reporter freed

New York, November 5, 2007—The Committee to Protect Journalists welcomes the weekend release of Radio Free Iraq correspondent Jumana al-Obaidi, who was held by kidnappers for nearly two weeks.

The station’s parent, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), said al-Obaidi was abducted from a car while on her way to a scheduled assignment at the Iraqi Environment Ministry on October 22. Radio Free Iraq, the Arabic language service of RFE/RL, broadcasts to Iraq from RFE/RL headquarters in Prague. The radio service said Iraqi police found the body of al-Obaidi’s slain driver, identified only as Abdullah, in Baghdad’s Al-Shaab neighborhood shortly after the abduction. The radio service said he was in his late 20s and was survived by a wife.

“We are relieved our colleague Jumana al-Obaidi was freed by kidnappers, but we’re saddened by the senseless murder of her driver and offer our deep condolences to his family,” CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon said. “Armed groups continue to abduct Iraqis, including members of the press, at an alarming rate.”

RFE/RL, which reported the release of the journalist on Sunday, did not reveal details as to what led to her release or the identity of her captors.

Two journalists for RFE/RL, a U.S. government-funded broadcaster, have been killed this year. In May, gunmen shot correspondent Nazar Abdulwahid al-Radhi in the southern city of Al-Amarah in the Maysan province. Reporter Khamail Khalaf was kidnapped from Baghdad’s Yarmouk district and murdered in early April.

CPJ research shows that at least 51 journalists, including al-Obaidi, have been abducted since 2004. Abdullah’s murder brings the number of media support staff killed to 42; with one exception, all have been Iraqis.