Liberation's Aubenas no stranger to trouble spots Print E-mail

Liberation's Aubenas no stranger to trouble spots

PARIS, March 1 (AFP) - Florence Aubenas, the French reporter who issued a desperate appeal for help Tuesday from her Iraqi captivity, is no stranger to tough situations.

A senior reporter for the past 18 years for the Left-wing Paris daily Liberation, Aubenas, 43, has covered many of the world's most challenging crisis points, such as Rwanda, Afghanistan or Kosovo.

"She is a great professional, who is used to danger zones," said Antonie de Gaudemar, the newsroom chief at Liberation.

"She has immense talent. She loves to go off on assignment. She's plucky but she's not reckless," said a colleague.

"Florence is a free woman who chose this calling of journalist," according to her mother, Jacqueline, a university professor and cinema historian.

"She loves her job, and she does it with dignity and respect," she told Liberation shortly after her daughter's abduction January 5.

Aubenas and her Iraqi guide and translator Hussein Hanun al-Saadi have become symbols of press freedom in France and further afield. Their portraits hang in several cities, including the European capital, Brussels.

One month after Aubenas disappeared during a reporting assignment near Baghdad, an Italian journalist, Giuliana Sgrena, was also abducted. She later appeared in a video, saying her life depended on the withdrawal of Italian troops from Iraq.

The press freedom group Reporters Sans Frontiers is pushing every possible button for the release of the two journalists and the translator. The appeal has been supported by Arab intellectuals and French performers who took part in a packed-out concert at the Olympia theatre in Paris February 14 that was retransmitted to the Arab world.

Born in Belgium, but with French nationality, Aubenas worked for the daily Le Matin and the weekly Nouvel Economiste before joining Liberation.

As a special correspondent not only in hot spots abroad but in many of the tough neighbourhoods around French cities, Aubenas sought to describe the human emotions and tensions behind the bare facts. Her mother said Aubenas sought to bring out "the concrete suffering" behind the daily welter of abstract news.

On her latest assignment to Iraq, Aubenas was reporting on the fate of Iraqis driven out of their homes after the American assault on the city of Fallujah.

Aubenas has written several books, including "Letter to an Iraqi friend" and "Two Eyes Too Many" about the genocide in Rwanda.