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365th Day in Captivity for Journalists Detained in Somalia

It was one year ago Sunday when journalists Nigel Brennan and Amanda Lindhout (pictured left) were captured in Somalia, a country that has since been declared the most dangerous country in Africa for reporters.

With little media attention or government action for the freelance journalists, from Australia and Canada respectively, the Committee to Protect Journalists reports that the families of the two released this statement:

“Together, the two families continue to work tirelessly to secure Nigel’s and Amanda’s safe release. With little outside support, the families, who have been united as one throughout this horrendous ordeal, continue to do everything and anything to gain the earliest possible release for their loved ones Amanda and Nigel. Our thoughts and all our love are with Amanda and Nigel, today, just as they have been for the past 365 days, and just as they will be until they are safely home with us. In issuing this brief joint statement the families hope that the media will respect their wishes to be left alone during this particularly emotional time.”

Click here to read our earlier post about the kidnapping and the reported conditions under which they are being kept.

Click here to sign the petition for their release.

Not to be Forgotten: Amanda Lindhout’s Latest Plea

As the five month captivity of American journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee finally ended today, due to the help of former US President Bill Clinton who traveled to North Korea late Monday August 3, 2009, thousands of supporters worlwide let out a collective sigh of relief. Yet, another desparate plea by another captured journalist went relatively unnoticed.

Canadian freelance reporter Amanda Lindhout has been detained for nearly a year by Somali rebels, along with Australian photographer Nigel Brennan. Lindhout and Brennan’s captors have demanded a ransom of over $1 million dollars, but so far neither the Canadian nor the Australian government have made visible attempts to negotiate the two journalists’ release.

There has been a large outcry over the detention of several American reporters over the last few months, most notably Roxana Saberi who detained by Iran for 100 days before being freed in April, and Ling and Lee, mentioned above. Lawlessness in Somalia itself has been covered extensively since Somali pirates captured an American ship in April, 2009. Yet Lindhout and Brennan’s plight has barely been reported in mainstream media and a petition set up to demand their release has only amassed 1,780 signatures (compare to 88,249 for Ling and Lee or 10,669 for Saberi).

You can watch here to hear excerpts of Lindhout’s emotional call, in which she describes severe medical issues she is suffering from and where she describes why she fears for her life.

Amanda Lindhout and Nigel Brennan in 10th Month of Capture in Somalia

Today marks the 307 day that journalists Amanda Lindhout and Nigel Brennan have been held captive in Somalia, enduring harsh living conditions that keep them chained and without clean water, sufficient food, or medicine.

On August 23, Lindhout, a Canadian journalist, and Brennan, an Australian photographer, were abducted outside the capitol city of Mogadishu. They were traveling with two Somali drivers and a fixer to a refugee camp in order to continue their coverage on Somalia’s worsening humanitarian crisis. The three Somalis were released in January.

Ambroise Pierre, the Africa expert with Reporters Without Borders (RSF) fears that the kidnappers did not expect the situation to drag on for this long. “They are really getting impatient,” he says. “The kidnappers wanted to negotiate sooner than this.”

The kidnappers have demanded varying amounts around $2.5 million dollars in ransom for the two journalists. On Wednesday, a caller into Canadian broadcaster CTV claiming to be Lindhout left a message begging her government to take action and warning of her immediate need for care. “The Canadian government must have some duty to help its citizen in such a crisis and my fellow citizens to assist me by putting pressure on the government,” she said. “Without food or medicine, I will die here and I’m in need of immediate aid.”

The Committee to Protect Journalists‘ (CPJ) Robert Mahoney says “We understand that the Canadian and Australian authorities are working to help these journalists but it has been nearly 10 months since they were kidnapped. Both countries must step up efforts to secure their safe and swift release.”
CTV reported yesterday on the comparatively small public pressure on the government in this case.

Frontline commented on their Twitter page about the lack of government response and media coverage relating to the capture, and CTV has sourced documents pointing to a lack of public pressure. While the news of deteriorating conditions is worrisome, we hope this latest message will lead to more mainstream media coverage and general pressure on the Australian and Canadian governments do all they can to ensure the safe and timely release of Amanda Lindhout and Nigel Brennan.

Somalia has been declared the most dangerous African country for journalists, and five Somali reporters have been killed already this year.

Click here to read Lindhout’s message to CTV in its entirety.

Click here to sign the petition for the release of the two journalists.