With just days to go to the first anniversary of the abduction of French TV journalists Hervé Ghesquière and Stéphane Taponier and three Afghan assistants in northeastern Afghanistan, the French foreign ministry announced yesterday that it has received and authenticated a video from their captors showing that they are still alive.
“This is of course good news for the families, who have been reassured by being able to see that their loved-ones are still alive and apparently in good health, albeit thinner and visibly strained by the past 12 months of captivity,” Reporters Without Borders said. “But the fact that this proof has been sent suggests that the release of the five hostages is not yet imminent.”
The press freedom organization added: “This act of blackmail by the kidnappers on the eve of the end of year festivities in unbearable. These journalists must be released as a matter of urgency in order to be reunited with their families. We do not question the efforts deployed by the French authorities, but the slowness of the negotiations is extremely worrying.”
Ghesquière and Taponier, who work for France 3 television, and their three Afghan assistants have been held by a Taliban group in the northeastern province of Kapisa since 29 December 2009. This is one the longest periods that any French journalists have been held hostage in the past 20 years.
With the support of newspaper publishers, a campaign ad calling for the two journalists’ release will be published in French national and regional daily newspapers on 29 December, the first anniversary of their abduction.
A demonstration in support of the two journalists will be organized by Reporters Without Borders and their support committee outside the Paris city hall at 11 am the same day, with their relatives and with prominent political and media figures attending. It will be followed by a wake at the skating rink in front of the city hall at 5 pm.
It is essential to rally the media and public opinion on their 365th day in captivity in order to deliver a reminder about the urgency of the need to obtain their release.