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Japanese reporter's release raises hopes for French journalists

(RSF/IFEX) - 6 September 2010 - Reporters Without Borders is extremely relieved to learn that Japanese freelance journalist Kosuke Tsuneoka has been released after being held hostage for the past five months in northern Afghanistan.

"This is very good news and, while we remain cautious, it reinforces our hope that France 3 journalists Hervé Ghesquière and Stéphane Taponier, and their Afghan colleagues, who have been captives for the past 250 days, may also be freed soon," Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Jean-François Julliard said.

Freed on 4 September in the northern province of Kundunz, Tsuneoka was transfered to the Japanese embassy in Kabul and is flying back to Osaka, relatives told Reporters Without Borders. The fact that he is a Muslim convert appears to have influenced the decision to release him. The people who abducted him in April were believed to be Taliban militants.

Reporters Without Borders thanks the Japanese and Afghan authorities and Chechen personalities for relaying its appeal for Tsuneoka's release.

The news of Tsuneoka's release coincided with a statement by French presidential chief of staff Claude Guéant that there has been renewed proof within the past ten days or so that the two French journalists are still alive and are "in good health." He added that the negotiations for their release were delayed by Ramadan but would soon resume.
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