Monday, September 06, 2004

French Reporters Soon to be Free?

So says Die Welt:

Bagdad/Paris - Die vor zwei Wochen im Irak verschleppten französischen Journalisten sind nach Informationen des französischen Nachrichtensenders LCI außer Gefahr. Die beiden Reporter Christian Chesnot und Georges Malbrunot seien auf dem Weg von Falludscha nach Bagdad, berichtete der Sender am Freitag.
The French journalists who had been held captive in Iraq for two weeks are now out of danger, according to information from the French news agency LCI. Both of reporters Christian Chesnot and Georges Malbrunot are on the way from Falluja to Baghdad, reported the agency on Friday.
Assuming it's true, I'll be happy for them, but the circumstances surrounding the appeal for their release are such that one can't also help feeling a certain foreboding as to the message that the French have sent to Islamic extremists everywhere. As David Aaronovitch so well puts it
The same group has been holding the two French journalists, Georges Malbrunot and Christian Chesnot, whose appeals to the French government to repeal the school hijab ban were broadcast on al-Jazeera. The French have naturally refused to comply with the repeal demand, but they did something else instead. Communications Minister Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres appealed to the kidnappers, arguing that, 'We do not understand why journalists (were taken hostage ... when our country, in terms of Iraq, expressed with immense force in the United Nations the necessity of respecting international law to restore peace.'

I sympathise entirely with the desire to free these two men from the threat of death, but isn't de Vabres's position essentially that he quite understands why these groups kill Italians, murder some miserable Nepalese and execute a few Turks, but that it just isn't fair to do it to the French?

So the Islamic Action Front of Jordan (currently attempting to prevent proper penalties against so-called 'honour killers' in that country) says that the journalists' lives should be spared 'Because of France's distinguished position in rejecting the Anglo-American occupation of Iraq.' Not because you shouldn't murder journalists. A Hamas spokesman in Gaza agreed, arguing that freeing the Frenchmen would increase the isolation of Israel and the US. Not because you shouldn't kill journalists. The French argument, regrettably, amounts to the same thing.

Or, to put it another way, if you leave well alone you should be able to avoid being terrorised. (emphases added)
So much for claims that the French position on Iraqi terrorism was being "distorted." This is as dishonorable and cowardly a stance to take as it is an exercise in futility: they may leave one alone for the moment, but once the tide is firmly turned their way, one can be sure that they'll be back with new demands. Today it's the headscarf, and tomorrow it'll be Sharia as the sole law for the French Republic.

PS: This report suggests that the handover of the two journalists hasn't actually occurred yet; talks are now said to be in the "delivery phase" (whatever that means).