The Society of Professional Journalists International Journalism Committee is pleased New York Times reporter Stephen Farrell was rescued in Afghanistan Aug. 9 and expresses its sympathy to the families of his translator, Sultan Munadi, and of the British commando, Corporal John Harrison, who were killed in the rescue effort.
Farrell and his translator had been held by the Taliban since Sept. 5 before NATO’s International Security Assistance Force extracted them early Wednesday morning. According to the Associated Press, Farrell and Munadi were kidnapped by Taliban militants while they were interviewing Afghan civilians for a story about a recent NATO airstrike. The two had traveled without military escort to Taliban-controlled area in northern Afghanistan, the AP reported, to discover whether or not NATO released conflicting information to the public about how many Afghan civilians had been killed in the bombing.
"This incident underscores for us the dangers that come with war reporting,” SPJ President Kevin Smith said. “Journalists risk their lives countless times each day and have done so for decades to make sure their readers and viewers have the compelling stories that define the war on not only a strategic front but from a human perspective. War correspondents do brave and honorable work on behalf of journalism."
The risks journalists take when reporting in war zones and hostile areas to attain stories are serious and should be treated as such. This was the second time Farrell has been kidnapped, the first occurring in Iraq in 2004, and CNN reported that David Rohde escaped his Taliban captors in June after seven months of being held. The Committee to Protect Journalists tracks the number of journalists missing, killed or imprisoned and publishes the numbers on its Web site. So far this year, 27 journalists have been killed while practicing journalism or for being a journalist, according to CPJ.
“Dangers are imminent in war zones and it's encumbent upon those working to report the news to conduct themselves in ways that guarantee their own safety and the safety of those who entrust them with their lives,” Smith said. “While there will always be inherent dangers anytime war reporting is taking place, exercising caution has to be considered one of the primary objectives along with getting the story."
Along with the journalists who are facing danger to perform their jobs is the military, which works tirelessly to serve their countries’ people. The International Journalism Committee commends the professionalism and valor of the NATO International Security Assistance Force in rescuing Farrell.
Farrell wrote about his four days in captivity on his New York Times blog, “At War."
The SPJ International Journalism Committee works to improve and protect international journalism and encourage the free practice of journalism in all countries.