CBS journalist and Iraqi interpreter kidnapped from Basra hotel

CBS journalist and Iraqi interpreter kidnapped from Basra hotel

Reporters Without Borders is very worried about the disappearance
yesterday of a western journalist working for the US television network
CBS and his Iraqi interpreter in the city of Basra, 590 km south of the
capital. According to the latest reports, they were kidnapped by gunmen
from a hotel in the centre of the city.

At least 15 journalists,
all Iraqi, are currently held hostage in Iraq, which continues to be
the world’s most dangerous country for the media. Last year, 25
journalists and media assistants were kidnapped in Iraq. A total of 208
have been killed in connection with their work since the start of the
US-led invasion in 2003.

“The handover of authority in Basra to the Iraqi government in
mid-December has not improved security in the city,” Reporters Without
Borders said. “The Iraqi authorities must assume their responsibilities
and take measures to reinforce the safety of the inhabitants. Yet again
it is journalists who are paying dearly for the chronic insecurity in
one of the country’s biggest cities.”

The press freedom
organisation added: “With one month to go to the fifth anniversary of
the start of the war, the number of journalists being targeted is not
falling. We appeal to those who kidnapped the CBS employees to free
them at once.”

The CBS journalist and his interpreter were
reportedly kidnapped by gunmen who entered the Hotel Quasr Al Sultan
(Sultan’s Palace) at dawn. CBS asked the media not to speculate on the
identifies of those abducted and said it was doing everything possible
to find them.

The hotel owners, who witnessed the abduction,
said they thought the kidnappers were bandits after a ransom rather
than militiamen.