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International Women’s Day

8 March 2006 at 07:41 | 1058 views

Reporters Without Borders

Press release

7 March 2006

International Women’s Day

Two women journalists are being held hostage and six others are imprisoned worldwide

On the eve of International Women’s Day on 8 March 2006, Reporters Without Borders calls for the release of Jill Carroll and Rim Zeid, held hostage in Iraq, and for six other women journalists who are imprisoned in Cuba, Ethiopia, Iran, Maldives, Nepal and Rwanda.

The organisation also pays particular tribute to the family of Atwar Bahjat, a reporter on TV channel al-Arabiya, who was murdered on 22 February in Samarra, north of Baghdad. Forty-six women have been killed worldwide while doing their job since 1992.

Jill Carroll and Rim Zeid, two women held captive by armed groups

American journalist Jill Carroll, 28, working for several international media including the Boston daily Christian Science Monitor, was kidnapped in Baghdad, on 7 January this year. Since then, two video tapes have been released showing her in captivity.

On 1st February, journalist Rim Zeid and her colleague Marwan Khazaal, working for local al-Sumariya TV were leaving a press conference at the HQ of the Iraqi Islamic Party in Baghdad, when they were intercepted by four armed men. They were forcibly taken to an unknown destination.

Since the start of the war in Iraq, in March 2003, eight women journalists have been kidnapped. One of them, Raeda Wazzan, was killed by her captors, in February 2005.

Six women in prison

Among the 24 journalists imprisoned in Cuba, is one woman, Lamasiel Gutiérrez Romero, correspondent for the Nueva Prensa Cubana news agency. She was placed in custody on 11 October 2005 at a women’s prison in Mantonegro, in Havana province, after resuming her work as a journalist. She had been sentenced in August to six months house arrest for the "offence of resistance and civil disobedience" and had been banned from practising her profession for the duration.

In Ethiopia, opposition politician and correspondent for the US online news website Ethiopian Review, Frezer Negash, has been in prison since 17 January 2006. She is more than four months pregnant. She is being held at the Maikelawi police station in Addis Ababa but no charge has been laid against her. Reporters Without Borders has protested at this unjustified and inhumane imprisonment.

Elham Afrotan, journalist on the weekly Tamadone Hormozgan, has been imprisoned at Evin jail in Iran, since 23 January 2006. She and six other contributors to the newspaper were arrested after publishing a satirical article about the Ayatollah Khomeini.

At the heart of the tourist paradise of the Maldives, a young woman of 32 is living through hell. Jennifer Latheef, a reporter and photographer on the daily Minivan, was sentenced in September 2005, to ten years in prison for a "terrorist act". She was released at the end of December to receive treatment for injuries caused by police brutality. She is under house arrest and cannot move around freely.

In Nepal, Bhawana Prasain, 24, of the monthly Majdur Aawaj, held since 9 February 2006, said she had been beaten by police trying to force her to confess to membership of the Maoist movement. She was arrested during an opposition demonstration in the streets of Kathmandu. Reporters Without Borders calls for the release of this innocent young woman.

Finally, in Rwanda, Tatiana Mukakibibi has been held since October 1996. She was a presenter and producer on Radio Rwanda. After the genocide, she worked in Kapgayi, south of Kigali with the priest, André Sibomana, former editor of Kinyamateka and a 1994 Reporters Without Borders - Fondation de France press freedom award winner. She says her imprisonment is the result of being framed by people in her village because André Sibomana was sending reports to international organisations exposing abuses committed by Tutsis in reprisal for the April 1994 genocide. Since then the charges have changed but there has been no progress in dealing with her case and she is being held in appalling conditions. Reporters Without Borders has visited her on several occasions.

Killers still at large

Several women journalists have been killed over the past few years. In the vast majority of cases, the courts in their countries have failed to bring murderers to trial.

In Iran, two years and half after the event, the justice system is still obstructing progress in the investigation into the death of photographer Zahra Kazemi. The only person charged was cleared after a trial held behind closed doors. In the Philippines, the instigators of the murder of Marlene Esperat have still not been identified, a year after her death. In Somalia, there is very little likelihood of a conviction of the killers of Kate Peyton, 39, or of Duniya Muhiyadin Nur, 26. The same situation exists in Belarus, where the authorities ensure that those who murdered Veronika Cherkasova in October 2004 enjoy complete impunity. In Mexico, despite the efforts of the justice system, the murderers of Dolores Guadalupe Garcia have not been unmasked.

Courageous

Reporters Without Borders also pays tribute to May Chidiac, presenter on Lebanese LBC television, victim of a car bombing in the centre of Beirut, in September 2005. She escaped with her life, but was very badly mutilated.

Finally, the organisation salutes the courage of all the wives, partners, mothers, sisters and daughters of journalists who are seeking justice for their murdered, missing or imprisoned loved-ones, battling every day to uncover the truth or to seek redress.

It is impossible to name them all but Reporters Without Borders wishes to name just a few of them, whose struggle for freedom of expression is particularly exemplary: Samia Abbu, Fatiha Benshicu, Gemma Damalerio, The Ladies in White, Gisèle Khoury, Mary Lau, Fabienne Nérac, Gao Qinsheng, Osange Silou-Kieffer, Nayla Tuéni.

— 

Leonard VINCENT
Bureau Afrique / Africa desk
Reporters sans frontières / Reporters Without Borders
5, rue Geoffroy-Marie
75009 Paris, France
Tel : (33) 1 44 83 84 84
Fax : (33) 1 45 23 11 51
Email : afrique@rsf.org / africa@rsf.org
Web : www.rsf.org

Photo: Jill Carroll, in captivity in Iraq

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