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Conditions in Iraq continue to be extremely unsafe for journalists and media personnel. An Italian journalist was murdered last week, while a militant group is threatening to kill two French reporters who are being held hostage, report IFEX members.

On 26 August 2004, the Arab satellite channel Al-Jazeera said it had received video footage showing the corpse of Enzo Baldoni, an Italian journalist kidnapped the previous week by a group calling itself the Islamic Army in Iraq, report the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontierès, RSF) and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

Al-Jazeera said it did not air the video out of respect for Baldoni's family. Baldoni, 56, was in Iraq researching for a book on militant groups and had agreed to write freelance articles for the Milan-based magazine "Diario della Settimana," notes CPJ. He was also a volunteer for the Red Cross in Iraq. His kidnappers had threatened to kill him unless Italy withdrew its troops from Iraq within 48 hours.

CPJ says Baldoni was the first journalist killed after being abducted in Iraq this year. Since March 2003, at least 32 journalists and 11 media workers have been killed in action in Iraq by Iraqi forces, armed groups, and U.S. troops, according to CPJ figures.

Meanwhile, RSF, IFJ, CPJ and Human Rights Watch are leading worldwide appeals calling for the release of French journalists Christian Chesnot and Georges Malbrunot. The reporters are being held hostage by the Islamic Army in Iraq, which has threatened to kill them if the French government does not remove a ban on headscarves in French schools.

Chesnot, a reporter for Radio France-Internationale, and Malbrunot, a reporter for "Le Figaro," went missing on 19 August while reportedly heading to the city of Najaf, the scene of intense fighting between U.S. forces and Iraqi followers of cleric Moqtada Sadr. France's president, Jacques Chirac, has personally appealed for the release of the journalists, while refusing to repeal the headscarf ban. Chesnot and Malbrunot have urged French citizens to call for a removal of the ban.

Several Arab leaders, media outlets and organisations, including the Federation of Arab Journalists, have also condemned the kidnappings and called for the release of the journalists.

For updates on the situation, visit:

- RSF:
- IFJ:
- CPJ:
- Human Rights Watch:
- International News Safety Institute:
- Arabs Criticise Captor's Motive:

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