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TV journalist kidnapped, released after three days; death threats against reporter in Diwaniya; journalist's home blown up in Baquba

(RSF/IFEX) - RSF hails the release early during the day on 19 November 2007 of journalist Muntadhar al-Zaidi, of the satellite television station Al-Baghdadiyah, who was kidnapped three days prior in central Baghdad. According to news agency reports, he was freed unharmed with no ransom being paid.

"It is a great relief to see this journalist return safe and sound to his family," RSF said. "His abduction had elicited a great deal of concern as many journalists have been killed in recent years in Iraq after being taken hostage. We must continue to campaign for the 14 other journalists of whom there has been no news since they were kidnapped in Iraq."

The Iraqi news agency Aswat Al Iraq said al-Zaidi, 28, was reunited with his family after being taken to a hospital for a brief checkup. The agency quoted an unnamed source as saying no ransom was paid for his release.

Ziad Al-Ajili of the Iraqi Press Freedom Monitoring Centre praised the swift response of Al-Baghdadiyah and several human rights organisations in Iraq and abroad, which emphasised the humanitarian aspect and Zaidi's qualities as a journalist." On 18 November, Al-Baghdadiyah broadcast a special two-hour programme dedicated to al-Zaidi, who has worked for the station since 2005.

In two other developments, a television reporter in Diwaniya has received death threats and a newspaper journalist's home in Baquba was blown up.

Maytham Al-Shabani, the US-funded satellite television station Al-Hurra's correspondent in Diwaniya (180 km south of Baghdad), has had to leave the area because he was getting death threats. The head of the Arabic-language station transferred him to Baghdad to avoid exposing him to further danger in Diwaniya. Al-Hurra (the name means "The Free One") was launched in February 2004.

The Baquba home of Hadi Al-Anbaki of the daily "Al-Sabah" was meanwhile blown up on 16 November, although he moved to Baghdad more than a year ago after receiving death threats.

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