Joy at release of hostages Florence Aubenas and Hussein Hanoun

12 June 2005

Reporters Without Borders today voiced "enormous relief and immense joy" at the release of French journalist Florence Aubenas and her Iraqi interpreter and guide, Hussein Hanoun, after 157 days as hostages in Iraq.

"We felt we were on the home straight for the past few days, but we wanted to be prudent, especially as experience has shown that each hostage-taking is different," the press freedom organisation said.

"Their release is proof that a solidarity campaign is worthwhile and we thank all those who have given their unfailing support throughout this long wait, especially the Support Committee and the staff of Florence's newspaper, Libération," the organisation said.

Reporters Without Borders continued : "We are especially happy to learn that Florence and Hussein are in good health and will be able to join their families soon. We think at this moment in particular of Benoît and Jacqueline, Florence's parents, who have displayed extraordinary courage throughout this terrible ordeal."

The organisation added : "We hope that we are going to experience a period of relative calm in Iraq and that journalists will be able to work in better conditions there."

Aubenas, who was freed yesterday afternoon, was due to arrive this evening in Paris aboard a plane chartered by the French government. Hanoun has already rejoined his family in Baghdad. The two went missing after leaving their Baghdad hotel on the morning of 5 January.

Reporters Without Borders will join a spontaneous rally at 8 p.m. today at Place de la Republique in Paris.

The organisation points out that there is still no news of French cameraman Fred Nérac, who went missing in southern Iraq on 22 March 2003 while working for the British TV news company ITN.

Reporters Without Borders defends imprisoned journalists and press freedom throughout the world, as well as the right to inform the public and to be informed, in accordance with Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Reporters Without Borders has nine national sections (in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom), representatives in Abidjan, Bangkok, Istanbul, Montreal, Moscow, New York, Tokyo and Washington and more than a hundred correspondents worldwide.

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