All avenues explored in efforts to secure release of three Czech journalists

19-04-2004

During the six days that the three Czech journalists were held captive in Iraq the Czech Foreign Ministry worked hard to secure their release, looking for help in all possible quarters, including the Czech Republic's Muslim community.

Petr Klima, Michal Kubal and Vit Pohanka back in Czech Republic, photo: CTKPetr Klima, Michal Kubal and Vit Pohanka back in Czech Republic, photo: CTK It is believed a letter from Prague's Islamic Foundation played a part: it called on the Iraqi insurgents to release the three journalists and said not all the foreign civilians in Iraq were on the side of the occupying forces. Deputy Foreign Minister Petr Kolar said the letter was one of several factors which contributed to their release.

"I think that this letter and the fact that we are mostly operating in Iraq on the humanitarian level with the coalition helped as well. And as you probably know, Iraqi children have undergone operations in our hospitals. So all those facts helped us very much.

"And the fact that the journalists were journalists, they are people who are always informing objectively and realistically about things and events in Iraq and about the war and about the circumstances of it helped as well."

The Minister of Culture on the Iraqi Governing Council, Mufid Jazairi, has close personal contacts with both the Czech media organisations involved: his former wife Pavla works for Czech Radio, while his son Martin is Czech Television's Moscow correspondent. Mr Jazairi, who himself studied journalism in Prague and speaks good Czech, also played a role in the freeing of the hostages. Petr Kolar again.

"The minister of culture, Mr Jazairi, was a very supportive person who helped us very much in the beginning, with some contacts and personal support on the ground. The chief of his cabinet was there in the place where they were kidnapped; then some other contacts were provided by him to our people, so I really very much appreciate what he did for us."

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