Reporters Without Borders is delighted by today’s release of French journalists Hervé Ghesquière and Stéphane Taponier and their Afghan interpreter Reza, who were abducted by a Taliban group on 29 December 2009 in the northeastern province of Kapisa while doing a report for the French TV station France 3.
“We are greatly relieved by this news, which we have constantly awaited throughout the 547 days that the hostages spent in captivity,” Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Jean-François Julliard said. “Our recent meetings with the Afghan authorities and the French officials in charge of the case had led us to believe that they would be freed soon.
“We hail all the efforts undertaken by the French and Afghan governments, which led to Ghesquière and Taponier and their interpreter being freed safe and sound as result of negotiation. We hope they will all be reunited with their families very soon.”
Kapisa governor Abdol Hakim Akhonzadeh, who was reached in the town of Tagab, told Reporters Without Borders that the journalists were freed at around 5 p.m. today (local time). The Elysée Palace immediately notified their families, who were participating in a rally in support of the journalists in Igor Stravinski Square in Paris.
Held on the day they would have completed 18 months in captivity, the rally included a display recreating the conditions in which they were being held. It was staged by Reporters Without Borders with the aim of increasing public awareness of their plight and launching a new appeal for their release.
A Reporters Without Borders delegation consisting of Julliard, president Dominique Gerbaud and Afghanistan researcher Reza Moini visited Kabul from 20 to 25 June to gather information about the situation of the hostages. They met with information and culture minister Makhdom Raheen, foreign minister Zalmai Rasoul, national security commission chairman Rangin Dadfar Spanta, French ambassador Bernard Bajolet and various journalists’ associations.
Afghanistan continues to be one of the world’s most dangerous countries for media personal and Afghan journalists pay a high price for working with foreign media. At least 15 journalists have been kidnapped by criminal or insurgent groups in Afghanistan since the start of 2009.