UPDATE 1-French journalist freed after brief arrest in Ukraine's Crimea

Thu Mar 13, 2014 2:07pm EDT

(Updates with journalist freed)

PARIS, March 13 (Reuters) - A French television journalist was arrested in Ukraine's Crimea but freed after several hours on Thursday, a spokesman for his station said, days after Reporters Without Borders warned media were being targeted in the region.

David Geoffrion, working for Canal+, was detained by pro-Russian gunmen at a military installation in the Ukrainian town of Simferopol, a French source said.

Several hours later, the journalist was freed, said the Canal+ spokesman, who provided no further details.

Tension in the Black Sea peninsula has been growing since pro-Russian separatists took control of the regional parliament and announced a referendum for March 16 to make Crimea part of the Russian Federation.

Paris-based media watchdog Reporters Without Borders said on Monday it was alarmed by the steady escalation in violations of journalists' rights in Crimea after two Ukrainian journalists were arrested.

Separately, speaking ahead of a planned visit to Moscow on Tuesday, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said the only way to resolve the "very difficult and dangerous situation" was through dialogue, but time was running out.

"This referendum in Crimea is against international law and the choice is not being left to anybody. It's the choice of yes or yes," he said at a news conference with his Irish counterpart. (Reporting By John Irish and Marine Pennetier; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)