[Guest post by DRJ]
A New York Times reporter held hostage by the Taliban has been freed by British commandos:
“Stephen Farrell, a New York Times reporter held captive by militants in northern Afghanistan, was freed in a military commando raid early Wednesday, but his Afghan interpreter was killed during the rescue effort.
In a brief telephone call about 7:30 p.m. New York time on Tuesday, Mr. Farrell told Susan Chira, the foreign editor of The Times: “I’m out! I’m free!”
Ms. Chira said Mr. Farrell told her that he had been “extracted” by a commando raid carried out by “a lot of soldiers” in a fierce firefight with his captors. Mr. Farrell said he had also called his wife.”
A British commando was also killed in the raid that freed Farrell. Farrell had traveled to Afghanistan to cover a recent NATO airstrike that reportedly killed up to 90 civilians.
This is the second time the New York Times and other media kept secret a reporter’s abduction to protect his safety:
“Until now, the kidnapping had been kept quiet by The Times and most other news media organizations out of concern for the men’s safety.
“We feared that media attention would raise the temperature and increase the risk to the captives,” said Bill Keller, the executive editor of The Times. “We’re overjoyed that Steve is free, but deeply saddened that his freedom came at such a cost. We are doing all we can to learn the details of what happened. Our hearts go out to [interpreter] Sultan’s family.”
The rescue of Mr. Farrell came about 11 weeks after David Rohde, another reporter for The Times, escaped and made his way to freedom after more than seven months of captivity in the mountains of Afghanistan and Pakistan.
In that case as well, The Times and other news organizations kept Mr. Rohde’s kidnapping silent out of fear for his safety.”
I wondered before about a media double-standard in comparing the months of secrecy the media afforded the Rohde abduction with the immediate coverage about the capture of Pfc. Bowe Bergdahl, an American soldier whose story the BBC and other media published within days.
Is there a double-standard that leads the media to protect their own reporters when they are taken hostage, but not others? I’m not the only one asking that question:
“A New York Times reporter falls into the hands of the Taliban and not a word appears in major news outlets until after his escape seven months later.
An American soldier in Afghanistan falls into the hands of the Taliban, and although the military seeks media restraint while it launches a search, his plight earns barely three days of silence.
A double standard?
Maybe yes, maybe no.”
‘Maybe no’ because the military press office apparently mistakenly confirmed Bergdahl’s capture to the local media. ‘Maybe yes’ because the BBC relied on local reports that the media had ignored in Rohde’s case:
“Interviews and research using the LexisNexis news database and other sources show that the BBC’s Worldwide Monitor picked up and relayed a report that day by a small news service, the Afghan Islamic Press, which said a Taliban commander had told it his forces had captured an American soldier and three Afghans.
The Afghan Islamic Press added that the U.S. military in Afghanistan had confirmed that one of its soldiers was missing.
This was the sort of report major media had ignored during Rohde’s captivity. But not this time.
Less than an hour after the time stamped on the BBC’s imprimatur of the Afghan report, Bergdahl’s plight was international news, quickly picked up and reported on by what would become numerous other news outlets, including Stars and Stripes, and even draw public notice from President Barack Obama himself.
Whitman said the military official who had provided the confirmation that opened the dam had mishandled it.”
I’m happy for this reporter and his family. I wish the same for Pfc. Bergdahl and his family, too.