FPJQ and CJFE alarmed about the disappearance of a Canadian journalist
(FPJQ/CJFE/IFEX) - The following is an FPJQ and CJFE press release:
FPJQ and CJFE alarmed about the disappearance of a Canadian journalist in Afghanistan
The Fédération professionnelle des journalistes du Québec (FPJQ) and Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) wish to express their alarm over the disappearance of Ken Hechtman, a Canadian freelance journalist from Montreal. Hechtman has been covering the war in Afghanistan on a freelance basis since early October. He has been working for several media organizations, including the Montreal weekly newsmagazine The Mirror and the Web news site Straight Goods.
It is believed Hechtman, 32, is being held hostage in the Spin Boldak region, near the Pakistani border.
Journalists from the British daily The Guardian and from USA Today were the first to alert Canadians that Hechtman had disappeared. A brief note written by Hechtman on one of his business cards was given to Jonathan Steele, a correspondent for The Guardian. It allegedly indicates that the journalist is being held in chains.
For the moment, it is not clearly known who is responsible for the kidnapping or what their motives are. There are reports of violence in the area, and it remains unclear if the Taliban is in control. The kidnapping may also be linked to one of several tribes in the area.
It is feared that Hechtman's life is in danger and that he is being held in order to obtain a ransom.
The fact that eight journalists have lost their lives covering the war in Afghanistan, and that another Canadian journalist, Levon Sevunts, from the Montreal English-language daily The Gazette, recently escaped a deadly attack on a Northern Alliance convoy that killed three other journalists, makes Hechtman's disappearance all the more alarming.
The Canadian High Commissioner in Islamabad is checking reports that Hechtman has been detained. Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien has said if the reports are true, the Canadian government will do everything it can to free the journalist.
The Canadian foreign affairs department warned Canadian news organizations earlier this week of a Taliban plot to lure Western journalists to Kandahar in order to take them hostage.
Hechtman, a writer and computer technician, was on his first assignment as a war correspondent. The FPJQ and CJFE ask that all efforts be made to locate Ken Hechtman and to work for his immediate release.