France marks an­niver­sary of re­porters ab­duc­tion

The Pak Banker - - 6i Nternational -

PARIS: The faces of two French jour­nal­ists held hostage in Afghanistan were pro­jected onto the Arc de Tri­om­phe in Paris on Wed­nes­day as me­dia rights cam­paign­ers marked the first an­niver­sary of their ab­duc­tion.

"Free Stephane and Herve and their three col­leagues," read the slo­gan on the Paris land­mark be­neath the faces of the camer­man Stephane Taponier and re­porter Herve Gh­esquiere.

The jour­nal­ists, who work for France 3 pub­lic tele­vi­sion, were seized along with three Afghan col­leagues a year ago in an area north­east of Kabul rife with anti-govern­ment in­sur­gents.

Their pho­tos were printed Wed­nes­day on the front pages of French na­tional news­pa­pers and their plight was the lead story in many tele­vi­sion and ra­dio news broad­casts here.

Their faces were also due to be pro­jected later Wed­nes­day onto the front of the Paris city hall build­ing, and Paris and other French cities were to host gath­er­ings to mark the an­niver­sary. The eye-catch­ing stunt at the Arc de Tri­om­phe was or­gan­ised by Paris-based me­dia rights cam­paign­ers Re­porters With­out Bor­ders (RSF).

"By pro­ject­ing their faces on to the Arc de Tri­om­phe, we want to re­mind the French au­thor­i­ties that the prom­ises of a forth­com­ing re­lease are not enough," it said.

"Pres­i­dent Nicolas Sarkozy must make their fate a na­tional pri­or­ity." Afghan crim­i­nal groups and Is­lamist rebels have kid­napped sev­eral dozen for­eign­ers, many of them jour­nal­ists, since the 2001 US-led in­va­sion ousted the Tal­iban regime in Kabul, spark­ing the cur­rent in­sur­gency.

Last week France 3 tele­vi­sion re­vealed that a new video the kid­nap­pers made in midNovem­ber of their two French hostages had been re­leased to the French au­thor­i­ties.

The par­ents of Taponier were shown the video on Tues­day at the French for­eign min­istry and said af­ter­wards the two hostages looked thin but were in good shape.

Taponier's par­ents this week spoke to the me­dia for the first time since their son was kid­napped and expressed frus­tra­tion at the lack of progress in free­ing him.

The cou­ple said they were tired of hear­ing up­beat state­ments from French govern­ment min­is­ters that failed to come to any­thing. "When (For­eign Min­is­ter) Michele Al­liot-Marie speaks of a 'short time', we say to our­selves it's im­mi­nent. And then Christ­mas is al­ready gone... We are still hop­ing for good news, but it gets you down," said Ger­ard Taponier.

Ar­lette Taponier com­plained that the French govern­ment had not kept them in­formed of de­vel­op­ments. When they were re­ceived at the for­eign min­istry, she said, it was all "very vague". -Afp

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