The internationally known media rights group Reporters Without Borders has marked the first anniversary of the abduction of two French journalists in Afghanistan. VOA’s Steve Norman spoke about the case with the general secretary of the Paris-based organization, Jean-François Julliard.
According to Julliard, to this day not much is known about the capture and current whereabouts of Herve Ghesquiere and Stephane Taponier, both of France-3 TV. What is known is that they were working on a report on how members of the French military were assisting the local Afghan population with infrastructure projects when they were taken by Taliban insurgents. Today, he says, their case has become one of the longest detentions of French journalists.
Julliard says that little is known about the Taliban’s demands other than there having been talk of money and the release of fighters currently held in Afghanistan. To his knowledge, however, the journalists, who were captured together with three of their Afghan colleagues, are still alive. Proof thereof seems to be contained in several videos the Taliban released showing the captives pleading with the French government and their families to help secure their freedom.
Encouraged by apparent evidence that the two reporters are still alive, Julliard does question what the French government has done or failed to do to secure their release. He says his organization does not understand why efforts are taking so long, why negotiations seem to be at a standstill and why French authorities are not doing more. For him, the entire case has raised many questions because of the way it is being handled.
“We had a big debate about how French authorities and especially Nicolas Sarkozi himself handled this case, because during the first weeks of the detention of Herve and Stephane, President Sarkozi was very critical of them, their work and the reasons [as to] why they were in Afghanistan, saying that they took too many risks and that they did not have to do this report.”
The entire matter, says Julliard, has turned into a confrontation between President Sarkozi and French journalists.
French Foreign Minister Michele Alliot-Marie has said in a statement that securing freedom for the France-3 TV journalists and six other French hostages around the world - is an "absolute priority" for the government. Earlier this month, French officials have also said they believed progress is being made in securing the journalists' release.
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