CPJ welcomes release of CBS journalist in Basra

CPJ welcomes release of CBS journalist in Basra      

New York, April 14, 2008—The Committee to Protect Journalists welcomes the release of CBS News journalist Richard Butler, who was freed in southern Iraq today after two months in captivity.

Butler, a producer and photographer on assignment for CBS’ news magazine 60 Minutes was freed unharmed during a raid by Iraqi forces in the city of Basra, international news agencies reported.

“The Iraqi army stormed the house and overcame my guards and then burst through the door,” Butler said on Iraq’s state-run Al-Iraqiya TV, according to Reuters. “I had my hood on, which I had to have on all the time. And they shouted something at me and I pulled my hood off.”

Defense Ministry spokesman Mohammed al-Askari said an army patrol came under fire from the house where Butler was being held in Basra’s Jibiliya section, The Associated Press reported. Al-Askari said one of the gunmen in the house was wounded, a second was captured, and two others escaped.

“We are relieved that our colleague Richard Butler is finally free and look forward to him being reunited with family and friends,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “His abduction is a terrible reminder of the risks journalists are taking to shed light on this conflict, specifically on what’s happening in southern Iraq. We call on Iraqi authorities to end the cycle of impunity for those who abduct members of the press, and we urge them to ensure that those responsible are swiftly brought to justice.”

Butler, a British national, and his Iraqi interpreter were seized by gunmen at the Sultan Palace Hotel in Basra on the morning of February 10, CBS News reported. The translator was freed several days later, but Butler remained in captivity. CBS News said it had refrained from releasing Butler and his interpreter’s name or details about the abductions “pending their safe release.”

Butler appeared to be in good condition, according to the news reports.