Christian Science Monitor Reporter Kidnapped in Iraq
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JEFFREY BROWN: When American reporter Jill Carroll appeared in the silent 20-second video shown on al-Jazeera Television yesterday, it was the first time she’d been seen since her Jan. 7 abduction in Baghdad.
Network representatives said her captors had threatened to kill the 28-year-old in 72 hours if U.S. authorities do not release all Iraqi women in military custody.
A freelancer on assignment for the Christian Science Monitor, Carroll was kidnapped in a dangerous neighborhood after leaving the office of a prominent Sunni politician she’d been trying to interview.
JILL CARROLL: One thing a lot of –
JEFFREY BROWN: Carroll, seen here during a 2005 interview with MSNBC, was traveling without security in an unarmored car, and was stopped by men brandishing weapons at this location.
Her driver, who survived the attack, was pulled from the vehicle. The assailants then drove away with Carroll and her interpreter, Allan Enwiyah. He was later found dead from gunshots.
This afternoon, David Cook, Washington bureau chief of the Christian Science Monitor, spoke to reporters.
DAVID COOK: We respectfully call on Jill’s captors to exercise justice and mercy and to let our innocent colleague be reunited with her family.
We certainly haven’t given up on getting Jill back, and we were heartened by the statements that came out today by the Sunni politicians and by the clerics — and we hope before the deadline expires, she will be free.
JEFFREY BROWN: At the White House, Press Secretary Scott McClellan spoke briefly on the matter.
SCOTT McCLELLAN: Well, any time there is an American held hostage, it is a priority for the administration. But I don’t think it’s helpful to get into talking about it further than that because of the sensitivity of the situation.
JEFFREY BROWN: The Christian Science Monitor, like other papers, is now reporting on the situation. But initially, the Monitor had asked that the kidnapping not be covered so authorities could pursue the case quietly — a highly unusual request by a media organization, made in an extraordinary environment.
In fact, reporting from Iraq has proven to be an extremely dangerous assignment. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 37 reporters have been abducted in Iraq. Carroll is the first American woman. Several of those kidnapped were later found dead.
In all, 60 journalists have been killed since the war began nearly three years ago.
And more now on Jill Carroll and reporting conditions in Iraq from Lara Logan of CBS News — she’s reported from Iraq for CBS and from other war zones as a freelance journalist; and Jackie Spinner, staff writer for the Washington Post and author of a book out next month on her Iraq experiences titled, “Tell Them I Didn’t Cry.” Welcome to both of you.
Jackie, do you have any new information on negotiations or any activities in Baghdad today?
JACKIE SPINNER: Well, I think that the latest development is probably what David Cook mentioned, and that is the statements that came from the top Sunni politicians today calling for her release.
I don’t know the significance of that as a development, but for me watching this as closely as I have, I was heartened by that.
JEFFREY BROWN: Now, you know Jill Carroll well from Baghdad.
JACKIE SPINNER: I do.
JEFFREY BROWN: Tell us about her and the work she was doing.
JACKIE SPINNER: Well, Jill is a very honest reporter. I think that she didn’t have an agenda when she came to Iraq. She just wanted to come and tell the story, find the story and tell the story. She embraced it. She embraced life in Iraq. Whenever she was away from it, she would often remark that she felt homesick.
JEFFREY BROWN: Lara Logan, Jill Carroll went out largely unprotected, it seems. Is that unusual? Tell us about the precautions that reporters there take.
LARA LOGAN: Well, it’s obviously much easier for print reporters to try and move without being noticed than it is for television reporters because once the cameras come out, you’re pretty much exposed. And there is a great debate amongst the media of how you should operate. What is the safest way?
Many people believe that what we call trying to have the smallest possible footprint, that means to be as unrecognizable and unnoticeable, and unremarkable as possible, and I think that’s what Jill Carroll was trying very hard to do. That’s why she didn’t have security with her. She wanted to blend in with the local population as much as she could, both for her own safety and also to remove barriers between her and the people whose story she was trying to tell.
I mean, there’s a very — clearly in this situation, there’s a very costly price to be paid for that because her interpreter was killed, and that young Iraqi man actually worked for me just recently on my first story on 60 Minutes Sunday — he was our interpreter and helped us find our Iraqi character in that story.
And even seeing the pictures that show his body in the back of that truck, I can tell you it was very difficult for me, and I can only imagine how difficult it is for his family.
But in this kind of situation, not having armed guards with you, maybe costs you, maybe it doesn’t. And there are people that believe that even if you are attacked, what you should do is fight to the death, don’t be taken alive, because your chances, you know, of coming back, everyone knows that they don’t know what those chances are, and some people don’t want to take that chance.
JEFFREY BROWN: Jackie Spinner you wrote in your book, “During the time I was in Iraq the deteriorating security situation changed the way we cover the news, challenging every convention for how to report on and in a conflict in which we, the press, had no immunity.”
How did it change the kind of work you did, and the reporting you were able to do?
JACKIE SPINNER: Well, I think the most dramatic change was the inability to get out and to report the story for myself.
I grew increasingly reliant, as did most news organizations, on sending our Iraqi translators and special correspondents out into the field. If a car bomb went off in a neighborhood that was far too dangerous, not only for me as an American but for my Iraqi translator to be seen with an American, I simply let the Iraqi translator go and do the reporting for myself and come back and tell me what he saw.
JEFFREY BROWN: You’ve both referred to the Iraqi translators or assistants that you worked with, the situation must be even more dangerous for them in some ways.
JACKIE SPINNER: It definitely is. I mean, and I think that when we’ve imagined scenarios in which a kidnapping would take place, we — the Iraqis and the western correspondents both understand that the Iraqi is probably going to lose his life on the spot which, is happened with Allen.
JEFFREY BROWN: Ms. Logan, to what degree do the security issues affect the reporting, the actual news that comes back to all of us? Of course, the real question is what stories are not being told because it’s just too unsafe?
LARA LOGAN: Well, you know, the big complaint about this war coming from the American military and the Bush administration is that the media aren’t telling the real story.
They don’t talk about all the good things that are happening, and I frequently say to American military officers and soldiers on the ground, look, if you want us to risk the lives of all of our team to come and film the opening of a bridge that was intact before it was bombed in this war anyway, or a school that’s had new windows put in and being painted, I mean, those are just not reasons to risk the lives of all the people that are involved in trying to tell this story — until journalists have freedom of movement to move not just around Baghdad but to move around the country — we used to be able to drive to Fallujah.
I want to go down to Najaf and interview Muqtada al-Sadr; I can’t do that anymore. It is a huge — it has a huge impact on your ability to tell the story, and exactly as Jackie said, you know, we can’t just go and talk to insurgents and go to the other side and tell that side of the story.
There are only a very few select number of journalists in Iraq who have been able to do that. And I really — I take my hat off to them because that is an important aspect of the story that has not been well told.
JEFFREY BROWN: Jackie what, would you add to that in terms of the stories that we’re not getting because of the security situation?
JACKIE SPINNER: Well, I think that we’re probably getting the majority of the stories. We’re just not getting them ourselves. You know, the Washington Post has stringers all over the country. These are people we’ve trained as Washington Post journalists with our standards and our ethics, and when I can’t go someplace, they do the reporting for me.
Now, it’s preferable to do it yourself, and there are parts, as Lara said, there are parts of the country that we physically can’t get to, and if we don’t have a stringer there, we’re out of luck.
JEFFREY BROWN: There was an interesting issue raised, which we had in our setup, in which the Christian Science Monitor asked news organizations not to run with the story. Some people thought that this looked like a double standard in which news organization are protecting one of their own and in other cases, they might report the story.
Jackie, starting with you, are there guidelines or what is the thought process here in terms of reporting or not reporting a story like that?
JACKIE SPINNER: Well, I think it is obviously up to the individual news organization. I can tell you this is not the first time that a kidnapping has gone unreported.
JEFFREY BROWN: It’s not?
JACKIE SPINNER: It’s not the first time. We make these decisions on case-by-case bases. I think that it’s unfair to say that, you know, the news organizations were simply trying to protect their own because I can tell you, if I got a telephone call from a contracting company from the American military and they said, “Look, give us 24 hours,” I would seriously consider that request even if it didn’t come from a news organization.
JEFFREY BROWN: Lara Logan, we just have a minute. What would you add to that? How would you respond?
LARA LOGAN: I absolutely agree with Jackie. There is no doubt in my mind that if anybody, whether they were from the media or anywhere else, asked me to sit on something if someone’s life was involved, then I absolutely would not hesitate to do that.
You know, CBS sat on the Abu Ghraib story for two weeks before that was published to give the Bush administration time to look into it and investigate it and present their case as they wanted to.
I mean, news organizations do this all the time. And it was absolutely without any shadow of a doubt the right decision to be made.
JEFFREY BROWN: All right. Lara Logan of CBS News, and Jackie Spinner of The Washington Post, thank you both very much.