Gunmen urged to free freelance

Fears are growing for the safety of a freelance journalist who was kidnapped more than a week ago by an unknown armed group of Iraqi gunmen.

28-year-old Jill Carroll, an American freelance for the Christian Science Monitor, disappeared in the Western district of Al Adel, after insurgents ambushed her car and killed her translator.

According to police reports, the freelance was being driven by her Iraqi guide to interview a Sunni political leader when the ambush took place on the road to Fallujah.

Condemning the act, media freedom groups have compared the freelancer’s abduction to the kidnap of British aid worker Margaret Hassan, who was seized in the same neighbourhood about 18 months ago.

Similar to Ms Hassan, the freelance media worker is said to have travelled to Iraq to help local people, by penning stories about the impact of conflict, in a manner that reportedly went deeper than press pack or mainstream US coverage.

Her articles have been published in the Christian Science Monitor for the past three years, during which other publications embraced her talent, including the San Francisco Chronicle and the Italian News agency ANSA.

“She has proved an insightful, resourceful, and courageous reporter,”" said World News Editor, David Clark Scott. "But Jill is not the kind of person to take undue risks."

Friends and family of the freelance, who is known to have donned a hijab (scarf), have issued direct please to her captors for her release, hinting that her stories are helping to tell the full story of war in Iraq.

Her dress and ability to speak Arabic are said to have helped the reporter blend in and capture the essence of a story, from the grass roots upwards.

Posted on the Christian Science Monitor’s website, her relatives last week urged her kidnappers to “consider the work she has done to reveal the truth about the Iraq war.”

The Paris-based media freedom group Reporters Without Borders has joined the call, denouncing the abduction, but also adding its condemnation of the killing of her Iraqi translator.

Such an “appalling” act takes the death toll of Iraqi media to 56 (73 per cent of all media workers who have died in Iraq since 2003), the group said, while the kidnap of Ms Carroll takes the number of media abductees to 31.

More positively, the overwhelming majority of kidnapped journalists are later released, but Committee to Protect Journalists says her captors must free her immediately.

“We are deeply concerned for the safety of our colleague Jill Carroll, a noted professional journalist who has covered all sides of the conflict in Iraq," said Ann Cooper, CPJ Executive Director "We call on whoever is holding Carroll to release her at once."

In a statement, Reporters Without Borders, reflected: “There is still a life that can be saved today. We appeal to all those who, like us, reject injustice to do everything possible to ensure that the kidnapped journalist is freed as soon as possible. Experience has shown that an energetic campaign is decisive in the first days of an abduction.”

Meanwhile, Ms Carroll’s own writing suggest a growing awareness of the increasing danger she faced as an independent journalist in the world’s most lethal conflict zone for media. Her kidnapping also makes her the first American woman to be abducted since the conflict started in 2003.

According to ABC News, last year the freelance wrote: “After a terrifying fall when kidnapping and beheading became common, many journalists and freelancers left. There are only a few of the stalwart freelancers around now.

“I can't walk in the streets anymore or drop into a shop or market to talk to average Iraqis. The whole atmosphere has changed, charged with hostility and fear.”


16th January 2006

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