France Television's news chief flies to Kabul

PARIS — Pubcaster France Televisions’ news director Paul Nahon has arrived in Kabul to lobby for the release of two of its journalists who were kidnapped last Wednesday in Afghanistan.

The journalists, who have not been named, and their three Afghan assistants were abducted by gunmen in the eastern province of Kapisa, about 40 miles from Kabul, while on their way to meet a contact.

The five men are believed to be alive and in good health, according to a source involved in the effort to free them.

Gallic Defense Minister Herve Morin said on Sunday that there had been “no claim and no demand” over the missing reporters.

A French colleague initially blamed the Taliban but a spokesperson for the Taliban militia, Zabihullah Mujahid, told news agency AFP that the group was not involved.

A senior French military official in Kapisa said French troops had launched a manhunt and were searching all vehicles heading north toward Kabul.

Underscoring the dangers that media staffers face, the Intl. Federation of Journalists released figures last week showing that 137 reporters and other media personnel were killed last year, up on the 109 who died in 2008.

The org, which compiles figures of work-related deaths with the help of the Intl. News Safety Institute, said there were 113 targeted killings and 24 accidental deaths.

The deadliest region was the Asia Pacific where 52 industryites were killed.

In Iraq, which has been the most dangerous country for most of the past decade, deaths were down to five last year against 16 in 2008 and 65 in 2007 as the country’s political crisis eased.

In 2007, media deaths peaked at 172, of which 135 were murders and 37 were accidents.

Last year’s drop in the murder rate of journalists has been short lived,” said Jim Boumelha, IFJ president. “The devastating massacre of 31 journalists and media staff in the Philippines in November and fresh violence against colleagues in Mexico and Somalia have made this a year of terrible bloodshed for the media.”

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