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Rally in support of French journalists held hostage for past 18 months

June 28, 2011

Reporters Without Borders continues to press for the release of the only journalists currently held hostage anywhere in the world, French TV reporters Hervé Ghesquière and Stéphane Taponier, who were kidnapped exactly a year and a half ago in northeastern Afghanistan along with three Afghan employees.

A Reporters Without Borders delegation consisting of secretary-general Jean-François Julliard, president Dominique Gerbaud and Afghanistan researcher Reza Moini visited Kabul from 20 to 25 June, meeting information and culture minister Makhdom Raheen, foreign minister Zalmai Rasoul, national security commission chairman Rangin Dadfar Spanta, French ambassador Bernard Bajolet and various journalists’ associations.

“We are more optimistic now than before we left,” the delegation said today. “All the people we met in Kabul, both Afghan and French, were confident that this case is going to be resolved. We nonetheless continue to be very cautious. An imminent release has been forecast several times over these past 18 months without it ever materializing and we will definitely refrain from setting a date.

“The families of the journalists’ Afghan assistants were in contact with the hostages about three months ago. One of the family members even travelled to the region where they are held hostage and received encouraging news. All this points in the right direction. The work must be maintained until their release. This is not the moment to let up.

“We urge the French authorities, who are the only ones capable of obtaining the release of Hervé Ghesquière and Stéphane Taponier, to redouble their efforts. We hope that, after a year and a half in captivity, they are now entering their final period as hostages.”

Reporters Without Borders is organizing a demonstration in support of the hostages in Igor Stravinski Square in Paris tomorrow, beginning at 2 pm. The press freedom organization will be there all day with a special display entitled “Life as hostage,” which will recreate the conditions in which the French journalists are probably being held.

Ghesquière and Taponier, and their three Afghan assistants, Reza, Ghulam and Satar, were abducted by a Taliban group in the northeastern province of Kapisa on 29 December 2009 while doing a report for the French TV station France 3.

Freedom of expression is still fragile in Afghanistan. Despite undeniable progress, violence continues to be the leading threat to media freedom. The government is still struggling to establish its authority throughout the country because of the weakness of both the national security forces and the administrative apparatus.

In accordance with Afghan journalists’ organizations, Reporters Without Borders urges the media, civil society, government and religious institutions to do everything possible to end the violence that is making it increasingly dangerous for Afghan and foreign journalists to operate.

“Journalists are neither soldiers nor mercenaries,” the press freedom organization added. “They are media professionals who have the right to be protected.”

For more information contact:
Reporters without Borders
Phone: +33 1 44 83 84 84

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