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Afghanistan 9 November 2008

Canadian reporter freed after being held hostage for 28 days

Reporters Without Borders is pleased to learn that reporter Melissa Fung (photo, AFP), of Canadian Broadcasting Corporation/Radio Canada was freed late yesterday after being a hostage in Afghanistan since 12 October. The western media had not reported her abduction at CBC/Radio Canada’s request in order not to jeopardise negotiations for her release.

“We are extremely relieved by the release of this young journalist, who seems to be in good health despite her ordeal,” said Reporters Without Borders, which had been in contact with the Canadian authorities and her employer since her abduction. “We are nonetheless very worried by the recent kidnappings of journalists in Afghanistan, where the security situation has deteriorated dangerously.”

Fung was kidnapped by gunmen while on her way to a refugee camp on the outskirts of Kabul on 12 October and then taken to the west of the country. In a video released today by the National Directorate of Security (NDS), which recovered her yesterday, Fung said she was kept in a hole dug in the ground, and that her arms and legs were placed in chains during her last week of captivity in the western province of Wardak.

In a statement late yesterday, CBC/Radio Canada said Fung was freed at around midday Toronto time (9:30 p.m. in Afghanistan) and was now at the Canadian embassy in Kabul, where she was to undergo medical examinations. The initial signs were that she was in good health, the statement added.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said no ransom was paid to her kidnappers. Three men were arrested but NDS spokesman Sayed Ansari said they were only mid-level players.

The Canadian Press agency said the initial signs suggested that her kidnappers were members of a criminal group and not Taliban insurgents.

The abduction on 1 November of Joanie de Rijke, a Dutch journalist working for the Belgian publication P-magazine, was not reported by the western media until her release on 7 November. She was kidnapped in the Sarubi region (50 km south of Kabul), near the area where 10 French soldiers died in a July ambush claimed by several armed groups. She had been trying to interview those responsible.

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