Journalists who disappeared

CPJ research indicates that the following journalists have disappeared while doing their work. Although some of them are feared dead, no bodies have been found, and they are therefore not classified as “Killed.” If a journalist disappeared after being held in government custody, CPJ classifies him or her as “Imprisoned” as a way to hold the government accountable for the journalist’s fate.



Acquitté Kisembo, Agence France-Presse, June 26, 2003, Bunia

Kisembo, a 28 year-old medical student who was recruited by Agence France-Presse (AFP) to work as a fixer in the northeastern Ituri region, a notoriously dangerous and unstable area, was reported missing in Bunia, Ituri’s main town. The last person to report seeing Kisembo alive was Anthony Morland, an AFP journalist who was working with him.

Local journalists believe that Kisembo was abducted by militiamen loyal to the rebel Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC), which controlled Bunia until it was dislodged by a French-led international peacekeeping force earlier in June. Reports suggest that there was UPC resentment at locals perceived to be collaborating with the foreign presence in Bunia. However, the reasons behind Kisembo’s disappearance remain unclear.

According to Morland, Kisembo was first hired as a general fixer, but later was given some reporting duties. On the day he disappeared, Kisembo had been assigned to interview displaced people returning to Bunia.

At the time Kisembo was reported missing, Ituri was emerging from several years of bloodletting, violence, and ethnic conflict, spurred by the region’s richness in natural resources. According to journalists who have visited Ituri, disappearances, arbitrary killings, and other severe human rights abuses were all common in Ituri at the time.

Morland told CPJ that he had investigated Kisembo’s disappearance and was unable to locate any independent witnesses. UPC leader Thomas Lubanga told AFP that Kisembo was killed by militia from a rival ethnic militia, but was unable to substantiate the allegation, according to Morland.

On the evening before his disappearance, Kisembo was threatened by men outside houses occupied by the UPC, Morland said. At the time, he was with a group of international journalists watching the departure from Bunia of the last UPC gunmen, in line with an ultimatum issued by the peacekeeping force.

Kinshasa-based press freedom group Journaliste en Danger (JED) told CPJ that Kisembo was believed to have been assassinated by his kidnappers.


Indra Mohan Hakasam, Amar Assam, June 24, 2003, Goalpara

Hakasam, a correspondent with the Assam-language daily Amar Assam, was abducted at gunpoint from his home in Goalpara, in the remote northeastern state of Assam, on the evening of June 24. According to local press reports, his abductors were members of the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA), an insurgent group waging a separatist guerrilla war with India.

In recent years, several competing ethnic militias, including the ULFA, have conducted an increasingly violent secessionist rebellion against India’s central government.

Hakasam’s family has not received any news from him or the ULFA since Hakasam’s kidnapping, but local newspapers quoting rebel sources in late November claimed that he had been killed by the ULFA.

The Journalists’ Union of Assam went on a day-long sit-in strike on November 21 to demand that the ULFA provide information about Hakasam. Local journalists groups also called on the government to protect members of the press in the wake of the news of Hakasam’s possible death.


Fred Nerac, ITV News, March 22, 2003, Iman Anas

On March 22, veteran ITV News correspondent Terry Lloyd, cameraman Nerac, and translator Hussein Othman came under fire while driving to the southern Iraqi city of Basra. The journalists were not embedded with military forces.

The three men, along with cameraman Daniel Demoustier, were traveling in two marked press vehicles in the town of Iman Anas, near Al-Zubayr, when they came under fire, ITN reported. According to Demoustier, the car he and Lloyd had been driving had been pursued by Iraqi troops who may have been attempting to surrender to the journalists. Demoustier reported that the incoming fire to their vehicles likely came from U.S. or British forces in the area.

Demoustier, who was injured when the car he was driving crashed into a ditch and caught fire, managed to escape. He said he did not see what happened to Lloyd, who was seated next to him, or to the other crew members. Lloyd’s body was recovered in a hospital in Basra days later.

An investigative article published in the Wall Street Journal in May indicated that Lloyd’s SUV and another vehicle belonging to his colleagues came under fire from U.S. Marines. The article cited accounts from U.S. troops who recalled opening fire on cars marked “TV.” Soldiers also said they believed that Iraqi suicide bombers were using the cars to attack U.S. troops.

The Journal article cited a report from a British security firm commissioned by ITN to investigate the incident saying that Lloyd’s car was hit by both coalition and Iraqi fire; the latter most likely came from behind the car, possibly after the vehicle had crashed.

The report concluded that “[t]he Iraqis no doubt mounted an attack using the ITN crew as cover, or perhaps stumbled into the U.S. forces whilst attempting to detain the ITN crew.” The report also speculated that Nerac and Othman, who were last seen by Demoustier in another car being stopped by Iraqi forces–might have been pulled out of their car before it came under fire from coalition forces, and then Iraqi forces used the SUV to attack the coalition forces.

In April, Nerac’s wife approached U.S. secretary of state Colin Powell at a NATO press conference, and he promised to do everything in his power to find out what had happened to the missing men. In late May, Centcom said that it was investigating the incident, while the British Ministry of Defense promised to open an inquiry. Neither had made public any results as of October.

In September, London’s The Daily Mirror newspaper reported the testimony of an Iraqi man named Hamid Aglan who had allegedly tried to rescue the wounded Lloyd in a civilian minibus. Aglan told the newspaper that he had picked up a lightly wounded Lloyd, who had suffered only a shoulder injury, and attempted to take him to hospital in Basra when the minibus came under fire from a U.S. helicopter, killing Lloyd. The paper reported that the bus was also carrying wounded Iraqi soldiers.

An ITN spokesperson told CPJ that a number of elements of Aglan’s story are not consistent with ITN’s own investigation. She said an autopsy revealed that Lloyd had suffered two serious wounds that likely resulted from Iraqi and U.S. fire. She said that after he was wounded, an Iraqi civilian in a minibus had picked up Lloyd and tried to take him to a hospital in Basra. The minibus later came under U.S. attack. “It was a gunshot to the bus and [Terry] was probably in the bus,” she said. ITN investigators believe that either wound that Lloyd sustained would have been fatal.

According to ITV, when the journalists disappeared, Nerac was wearing three press cards–one American and two Kuwaiti–containing his name and photo. He had on a blue Gortex jacket, khaki trousers, thick Gortex shoes, and a silver watch. He has dark brown hair and gold-colored, round-rimmed glasses. Nerac has a fairly recent scar (about 2 inches [4 to 5 centimeters] long) on one side of his buttocks.

Othman was also wearing three press cards–one American and two Kuwaiti–containing his name and photo, said ITV. He was dressed in dark-colored, casual clothes. Othman is 5 feet 6 inches (1.70 meters) tall, with a medium build and short, thinning, dark hair.


Guy-André Kieffer, freelance, April 16, 2004, Abidjan

Kieffer, one of the few foreign investigative reporters still based in Ivory Coast, was last seen on April 16, according to local and international press reports. In the weeks prior to his disappearance, Kieffer received death threats, according to his family and friends, who fear that he has been killed. The journalist has both French and Canadian citizenship.

Since then his cell phone has been switched off, and his family has not heard from him. Unconfirmed reports in the opposition press have suggested that members of the security forces abducted and killed Kieffer. Reports that the tortured corpse of a white man was seen in Azaguié, near Abidjan, also remain unconfirmed.

The missing journalist is also a commodities consultant who specializes in the Ivory Coast’s lucrative cocoa and coffee sectors for a company that had contracts with the government. He had conducted numerous investigations in these sectors, including exposing corruption. His freelance work included contributions to the Paris-based African business newsletter Lettre du Continent.

On May 25, Michel Legré, a brother-in-law of Ivory Coast’s first lady, was detained in the commercial capital, Abidjan, and formally charged as an accessory in the kidnapping, confinement, and murder of Kieffer, according to international news reports. According to local press reports, Kieffer, was on his way to meet Legré when he disappeared.

A French judicial inquiry has been under way since May 3, after Kieffer’s wife filed a complaint in a Paris court. France and Ivory Coast have a bilateral treaty on judicial cooperation dating back to Ivorian independence in 1960.

In the days before he was detained, Legré testified for 10 hours before a French investigating judge and blamed people close to the Ivorian government for Kieffer’s disappearance, according to local and international press reports. On May 21, the French judge, Patrick Ramael, complained to the Ivorian state prosecutor that he has been unable to question the government officials that Legré implicated and asked the prosecutor to intervene.

While the government has charged Legré with being an accessory to murder, Kieffer’s body has not been recovered, and the government has yet to present evidence that he was killed.


Kazem Akhavan, IRNA, July 4, 1982, Byblos

Akhavan, a photographer for Iran’s official news agency IRNA, and two officials from the Iranian Embassy in the capital, Beirut, were believed to have been kidnapped by Phalangist militiamen at a checkpoint near the northern city of Byblos and executed shortly after their abduction.

However, a March 18, 1998, story in the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz raised suspicion that Israel may be holding the journalist. The story, written by Israeli journalist Josef al-Ghazi and based on information provided by the Israeli prison service, reported that three Iranian nationals were imprisoned in Israel at the time.

CPJ wrote to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on April 15, 1998 requesting the names of the imprisoned Iranians but received no response.


Ali Astamirov, Agence Frnace-Presse, July 4, 2003, Ingushetia, Russia

Astamirov, a 34-year-old correspondent for Agence France-Presse (AFP) news agency, was abducted on July 4 by unknown armed assailants in the southern Russian republic of Ingushetia.

Astamirov, who is married and has two children, previously worked for Chechnya’s Grozny Television. He was based in Ingushetia’s capital, Nazran, and had worked for AFP for more than a year. He reported on politically sensitive issues, primarily the conflict in Chechnya and the plight of Chechen refuges in neighboring Ingushetia.

The journalist was kidnapped while he and two colleagues, humanitarian worker Ruslan Musayev and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) stringer Aslambek Dadayev, were driving through Nazran and stopped for gas.

A white vehicle blocked the car, and three armed men in camouflage attire–two of whom were wearing masks–seized the journalists’ cell phones, pulled Astamirov out of the car, and drove off in the direction of Chechnya.

Russian law enforcement authorities launched a criminal investigation into the incident but have not reported any progress.

Astamirov’s fate remains unknown, and the abductors have not contacted the journalist’s family or AFP with demands.

According to AFP, Astamirov had received telephone threats in the months prior to his abduction and had moved to a different house because he feared for his safety. On July 24, AFP reported that a reliable source in Chechnya told the news agency that the journalist was still alive and that he was being held in Chechnya. The source provided no further details.



Shukur Hossain, Anirban, July 5, 2002, Ula

Hossain, a crime reporter for the Khulna-based newspaper Anirban, was kidnapped from his home in Ula, a village near the town of Dumuria, Khulna District, at around midnight by a group of about 35 armed men. His colleagues fear he may have been killed.

Police suspect that the assailants belong to the outlawed Biplobi Communist Party, one of several guerrilla groups active in the southwest of the country.

Hossain was last seen alive on the banks of the Ghangrail River, according to the national English-language newspaper The Daily Star. Two villagers who were in the area at the time reported that shots were fired, but police could not confirm whether Hossain was murdered.


Dhan Bahadur Rokka Magar, Radio Nepal, August 1, 2002, Jaluki

Rokka Magar, a newsreader for the Kham Magar-language service of Radio Nepal, was abducted by Maoist rebels while traveling by bus to the town of Surkhet, where he works. Rebels intercepted the bus near Jaluki, a Maoist-controlled village near the borders of Western Rolpa and Pyuthan districts, and kidnapped several passengers, including Rokka Magar and a representative from the British charity the Gurkha Welfare Trust.

It was not clear why the Maoists targeted certain passengers, but rebels generally view journalists working for state-run Radio Nepal as government agents. Colleagues fear that Rokka Magar may therefore be particularly vulnerable to severe harassment and torture.


Oleksandr Panych, Donetskiye Novosti, November 2002, Donetsk

Panych, a 36-year-old journalist and manager for the daily Donetskiye Novosti, disappeared in late November 2002 from the southeastern city of Donetsk and has not been heard from since. Donetskiye Novosti editor-in-chief Ryma Fil said that Panych had written articles about drugs and business issues, The Associated Press reported.

Panych disappeared several days after he sold his apartment for US$14,000. Soon after, investigators found bloodstains on the apartment’s carpet. Prosecutors believe he may have been robbed but have not ruled out the possibility that his disappearance is related to his journalism.



Belmonde Magloire Missinhoun, La Pointe Congo, October 3, 1998, Kinshasa

Missinhoun, a citizen of Benin and owner of the independent financial newspaper La Pointe Congo, has not been seen since he was arrested after a traffic accident with a military vehicle in the capital, Kinshasa. Police investigations into the journalist’s disappearance have yielded no results.

Missinhoun had lived in Kinshasa for approximately 30 years. La Pointe Congo has not published since the regime of dictator Mobutu Sese Seko fell in 1997. It is feared that the journalist, who had close ties to the Mobutu government, was killed.

In March 2003, Congolese sources told CPJ that no one has received any information about Missinhoun since his disappearance. Local sources said they saw the journalist’s jeep re-painted in army colors after his arrest, and that they suspect he was killed.


Emmanuel Munyemanzi, Rwandan National Television, May 2, 1998, Kigali

Munyemanzi, head of production services at Rwandan National Television, disappeared on his way home from work in the capital, Kigali. Two months before his disappearance, the director of the Rwanda Information Office (Orinfor) accused the journalist of sabotage because of a technical problem that had occurred during the taping of a political debate. Munyemanzi was then suspended from his job and transferred to Orinfor’s Studies and Programs Bureau.

In March 2003, one source told CPJ that the journalist’s body was recovered shortly after he disappeared. CPJ was unable to confirm this report.


Djuro Slavuj, Radio Pristina, August 21, 1998, Orahovac

Slavuj, a reporter at the state-run Radio Pristina, and Ranko Perenic, his driver, disappeared while on assignment in Kosovo. They were last seen in the town of Orahovac, where they had left by car to travel to Malisevo to report on strife in the area. Milivoje Mihajlovic, Slavuj’s editor, as well as Serbian officials and nongovernmental organizations, believe that fighters of the Kosovo Liberation Army captured the two. They were the first ethnic Serbs working for the media reported missing during the Kosovo conflict of 1999.



Vitaly Shevchenko, Lita-M, Chechnya, August 11, 1996, Grozny
Andrei Bazvluk, Lita-M, Chechnya, August 11, 1996, Grozny
Yelena Petrova, Lita-M, Chechnya, August 11, 1996, Grozny

Shevchenko and Bazvluk, journalists from Lita-M, a small television company in Kharkhiv, Ukraine, were reported missing by their colleagues in early September 1996. Fellow correspondents last saw the pair on August 11 in Grozny, the capital of Chechnya, during heavy fighting between Russian federal troops and Chechen fighters who had seized control of the city on August 6. Shevchenko and Bazvluk had reportedly traveled from their native Ukraine to Chechnya to cover the conflict. A third journalist, Yelena Petrova, a senior executive of Lita-M, was also believed to be missing. She did not contact her studio after mid-August, according to a colleague.

A representative of the Kharkiv Committee for Human Rights Protection told CPJ in March 2003 that the Lita-M television company no longer exists, and that the three are still missing. He also said that Shevchenko and Bazvluk were members of the ultranationalist Ukrainian Nationalist Assembly-Ukrainian National Self-Defense party. Other sources reported that the three were representatives of civic organizations and were involved in humanitarian work, making it unclear whether they were in Chechnya working as journalists.



Maksim Shabalin, Nevskoye Vremya, February 1995, Chechnya
Feliks Titov, Nevskoye Vremya, February 1995, Chechnya

Shabalin, assistant political editor of the St. Petersburg daily Nevskoye Vremya, and Titov, a photographer for the paper, were reported missing in Chechnya. They left Nazran on February 27, 1995, for their fifth trip to the breakaway republic since fighting there began in 1992.

According Nevskoye Vremya staff, the journalists were due back on March 4 but have not been heard from since and are presumed dead. Shabalin and Titov may not have had official accreditation from Russian authorities to enter Chechnya.

Colleagues at Nevskoye Vremya heard in September 1995 that the bodies of two journalists had been found in February 1995 in the Achoi Region of the republic. However, there were no documents or photographs confirming the bodies’ identities. On June 16, 1995, Nevskoye Vremya correspondent Sergei Ivanov traveled to Chechnya to look for Shabalin and Titov, but he never returned and has not been heard from since.

Alla Manilova, editor-in-chief of Nevskoye Vremya, told CPJ in March 2003 that Shabalin, Titov, and Ivanov are still missing, and that she heard rumors in the mid-1990s that Chechen rebels had killed Shabalin and Titov.

Sergei Ivanov, Nevskoye Vremya, June 1995, Chechnya

Ivanov, a correspondent for the St. Petersburg daily Nevskoye Vremya, was last seen by his colleagues on June 16, 1995, when he left for Chechnya to look for Nevskoye Vremya journalists Maksim Shabalin and Feliks Titov, who had disappeared in February. By the end of 1995, Ivanov’s colleagues had not heard from him, and they feared he was killed.

Alla Manilova, the editor-in-chief of Nevskoye Vremya, told CPJ in March 2003 that Shabalin, Titov, and Ivanov are still missing and that she heard rumors in the mid-1990s that Chechen rebels had killed Shabalin and Titov. She said that when Ivanov went to Chechnya to look for his colleages, the search team initially agreed not to split up, but Ivanov decided to go into the mountains on his own and was never heard from again.

Andrew Schumack, free-lancer, July 1995, Chechnya

Shumack, an American free-lance journalist, was last seen on July 28, 1995, when he left the Chechen capital of Grozny for the surrounding mountainous area. The St. Petersburg Press, an English-language newspaper, had provided Shumack with a letter of introduction on July 20 to help him obtain press credentials. In return, Shumack was to provide them with photographs and stories for three months. He is presumed dead because no one from the newspaper has heard from him since, and U.S. Embassy officials have not been able to locate him, despite repeated trips to the region.


Manasse Mugabo, United Nations Assistance Mission in Rwanda Radio, August 19, 1995, Uganda

Mugabo, director of the UNAMIR radio service, left Rwanda’s capital, Kigali, to go on vacation to Uganda and has not been heard from since. CPJ has been unable to find information regarding the journalist’s whereabouts.



Mohamed Hassaine, Alger Républicain, March 1, 1994, Algiers

Hassaine, a reporter with the daily Alger Républicain, was kidnapped by unknown assailants. CPJ originally believed that Hassaine had been murdered based on his colleagues’ reports of discovering Hassaine’s decapitated body. But during interviews in the capital, Algiers, in October 1998, CPJ learned that Hassaine’s body was in fact never found, and that there has been no evidence confirming his death.

Illustration: Béatrice Coron