Abducted Fox News journalists freed, Israeli air strike on Reuters vehicle in Gaza

Reporters Without Borders voiced relief at the release today of Fox News journalists Steve Centanni and Olaf Wiig in Gaza City after nearly two weeks in captivity but condemned an Israeli missile attack on a clearly-identified Reuters press vehicle in Gaza that seriously injured a local news website journalist.

“The release of the two US network journalists is very good news but the Palestinian authorities must still take concrete measures to protect media workers,” the press freedom organisation said. “As for the journalists targeted today by Israeli aircraft, we call on the Israeli military to carry out a thorough investigation to find out who was responsible for this blunder - unfortunately far from the first of its kind - and how it happened.”

Centanni and Wiig were kidnapped on 14 August in Gaza City by a previously unknown group called the Holy Jihad Brigade. Shortly before freeing them today, the group released a video in which their hostages said they had converted to Islam. After being set free, the two journalists said they had made these statements at gunpoint. Ten journalists have been kidnapped in the Palestinian Territories in the past 12 months.

“Hostage-taking is becoming more and more frequent in Gaza, and the hostages are being held for longer periods,” Reporters Without Borders said. “We expect the Palestinian authorities to seriously tackle this problem before one of these adductions ends tragically.”

Palestinian website reporter Sabbah Hmaida was injured in the leg and Reuters cameraman Fadel Shana briefly lost consciousness when Israeli aircraft fired two missiles early this morning on their armoured Reuters vehicle as they were following an Israeli incursion into the Gaza Strip. Reuters said signs on the roof and sides clearly showed it was a press vehicle.

The Israeli military told the Associated Press the journalists were not targeted intentionally but “they should not have been there” during the operation. “There was no sign on the vehicle, at least we didn’t see any,” an Israeli military spokesman added.

Reporters Without Borders has repeatedly condemned the poor judgement shown by the Israeli military during their operations. An Israeli tank seriously injured Palestinian public TV journalist Ibrahim Atla on 26 July.

“We propose that the Israeli government should involve third parties - human rights NGOs or the news organisations concerned - in the investigations into this type of blunder because, despite our repeated appeals, no serious investigation has ever been conducted into the many mistakes made by the Israeli army on the Palestinian Authority’s territory,” the organisation said.

Related Links

  • Militant group says it holds two Fox News journalists, CPJ (23 August 2006)
  • PNA required to act against the Kidnapping of Internationals and Attacking of International Organizations, PCHR (15 August 2006)
  • Call for release of two Fox News journalists kidnapped in Gaza, RSF (15 August 2006)