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Canada, Australia should step up efforts to free captive journalists being held in Somalia

Canada, Australia should step up efforts to free captives being held in Somalia
Canadian journalist Amanda Lindhout and Australian journalist Nigel Brennan (inset) have been held captive by Somalian abductors for ten months now.

The Committee to Protect Journalists has urged the Canadian and Australian governments to work for the immediate release of two freelance journalists who have been held captive in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, since August.

On Wednesday last, a woman claiming to be captive journalist Amanda Lindhout called the Canadian broadcaster CTV, saying she fears for her life and pleading for the government to assist her. Lindhout and Australian photographer Nigel Brennan were abducted along the Afgoye-Mogadishu road, just outside the capital.

"I have been held hostage by gunmen in Somalia for nearly 10 months. I am in a desperate situation," the woman told CTV. "The Canadian government must have some duty to help its citizens in such a crisis."

On May 25, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported that its correspondent in Mogadishu had received a call from two people who represented themselves as the captive journalists. The callers said they were in poor health and urged their respective governments to help free them, AFP reported.

"It must be agonising for the family and friends of Amanda Lindhout and Nigel Brennan to hear these reports about their poor health and the harsh conditions of their confinement in a city racked by conflict," CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney said. "We understand that the Canadian and Australian authorities are working to help these journalists but it has been nearly 10 months since they were abducted. Both countries must step up efforts to secure their safe and swift release."

“This captivity which is clearly extremely hazardous for the health of the two journalists has gone on too long. The growing insecurity in the Somali capital should convince the various parties involved to speed up negotiations and quickly find a satisfactory outcome to this case”, Paris-based Reporters sans Frontières (RSF) said. “We support the efforts of the Canadian and Australian governments and urge the kidnappers of the two foreign journalists to release them without delay,” it said.

Daniel Barbarie, a spokesman for the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs, told CPJ that his government was aware of the CTV report. He said officials "continue to pursue all appropriate channels to seek further information about Ms Lindhout's welfare, and to assist the family in securing her safe release as well as that of Mr Brennan."

Somali journalist Abdifatah Elmi—who was acting as a fixer for Lindhout and Brennan—was freed on January 15 after being held captive for five months. Somalia is one of the most dangerous countries in the world for the press; five journalists have been killed in 2009 alone.

Date posted: June 15, 2009 Last modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 476