Reporters Without Borders today voiced serious anxiety about the plight of Canadian reporter Amanda Lindhout and Australian photographer Nigel Brennan, who were kidnapped by armed men nearly ten months ago and are still being held hostage in Mogadishu.
A woman saying she was Lindhout phoned Canadian television CTV on 10 June and implored the Canadian government to do its utmost to secure her release. She tearfully described the appalling conditions in which she is held captive: “I am kept in a dark, windowless room in chains without any clean drinking water and little food or no food. I’ve been very sick for months without any medicine,” she said.
Two week previously, a journalist with Agence-France-Presse (AFP) based in the Somali capital talked on the phone with two foreigners who said they were Amanda Lindhout and Nigel Brennan.
The two journalists were abducted on 23 August 2008, on their way back to Mogadishu from visiting a refugee camp in Afgoye, about 20 kilometres west of the capital. They were with a fixer and two Somali drivers, all of whom were released on 15 January 2009.
“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”, the worldwide press freedom organisation 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.
The kidnappers have demanded a ransom for their release, the amount of which has changed over the months. Reporters Without Borders has obtained information that militia groups hoping to profit from the kidnapping are currently putting pressure on the hostage-takers so that they can get their money quickly.
Several rumours are circulating about the two hostages that Reporters Without Borders has been unable to confirm. Some Somali sources said in February that Lindhout and Brennan had tried to escape and had been recaptured by their abductors. The same sources also reported that Lindhout was pregnant.
Somalia is Africa’s deadliest country for journalists and kidnappings of journalists and aid workers have become frequent. Somalia is ranked 153rd out of 173 countries in Reporters Without Borders’ 2008 world press freedom index.
Here is the message left to CTV :
"My name is Amanda Lindhout. I’m a Canadian citizen and I’ve been held hostage by gunmen in Somalia for nearly ten months. I’m in a desperate situation. I’m being kept in a dark, windowless room in chains without any clean drinking water and very little food or no food. I’ve been very sick for months without any medicine. I’m begging my government and fellow Canadians to assist my family in paying my ransom. The Canadian government must have some duty to help its citizen in such a crisis. And my fellow citizens to assist me by putting pressure on the government. I love my country and I want to live to see it again. Without food or medicine, I will die here and I’m in need of immediate aid. I implore my family who I love more than anything to continue searching for money for my release – without it, I will die here. I will also tell them that they must deal directly with these people, if my life depends on it. My life is worth more than any money spent. To fellow journalists in Canada, please help bring attention to this situation and contribute in anyway possible, in order that I may return home to Canada. That’s all I can say."