Category Archives: reporters

Will The Taliban Behead Canadian Journalist Beverly Giesbrecht?

A Canadian journalist is in fear of her life. The Taliban has threatened to behead her at month’s end if ransom is not paid. West Vancouver native Beverly Giesbrecht was taken four months ago in Pakistan at gunpoint by Taliban militants.

Ms. Giebrecht, also known as Khadeja Abdul Qahaar was kidnapped on November 11. Three others were with her when she was taken while traveling to record video.

Canadian Journalists for Free Expression says that the latest video was sent on Wednesday to a media outlet in Pakistan. The video features the frail journalist asking for help so that she is not killed. The group is concerned that process is lacking on getting the journalist freed.

The 52-year-old journalist is seen on a video saying that her captors will kill her on March 30.

The National Post reports:

I’m going to be killed, as you can see,” Qahaar says on the video, pointing at a long knife hanging behind her.

“I’m going to be beheaded just like the Polish engineer, probably by the end of the month. The deadline is by the end of March.”

She was speaking of Polish geologist Piotr Stanczak who was beheaded on February 7 this year by a Taliban group in Pakistan. During the video Ms. Giesbrecht said she wasn’t sure where she was being held. She believes that she is near the Afghan border in either Afghanistan or Pakistan.

Giebrecht converted to Islam after the terrorist attacks on the US of 9/11. She owns and published a pro-Islamic web magazine called Jihad Unspun. That magazine has been tagged as a “a Canadian pro-terrorist website” by he Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies. She has claimed that the site provides information that is “devoid of the constraints of mainstream media.”

At the time of her kidnapping she was working on a documentary for the Al-Jazeera network. That is what was listed as well on her work visa.The kidnappers are demanding $2 million for her release along with the release of some prisoners jailed in Afghanistan.

It is believed that she was captured by the Taliban commander Gul Bahadur, who leads fighters in the volatile North Waziristan region. Residents of the area say the Taliban is in need of money and that is the motive for kidnapping.

The Globe and Mail reports:

They are in dire need of money. We are sure she will be released as they get the ransom. The demand of the money should be accepted and it is not an expensive deal to save her life,” said Muhammad Noor, sitting in a medical store in North Waziristan’s Miranshah hamlet.

Local residents could help rescue the journalist but the risk to go against the Taliban is too great. The Taliban is known for decapitating those they deem of being ‘spies for American forces’ in the area.

The Globe and Mail has been told by locals that cash would buy Giesbrecht’s life.

Friend Glen Cooper has viewed the latest video. He says that he is worried about her health and that she appears to be fragile.

The web magazine, Jihad Unspun, she founded was last updated she was taken.

Khadija Abdul Qahar is a devoted Muslim who created this web site.
Since 2002 she has operated a totally independent outlet for news about the Middle East.
With almost no resources, this tiny but remarkable woman raised the bar for courageous reporting.
She knew that her integrity would be attacked by both sides.
But Khadija appreciates the kind support from fellow Muslims world-wide.
Her primary goal is independent journalism that provides an alternate voice to Western media.
She was aware of the risks involved in her latest journey, but had faith in those who were supposed to protect her.
Pray to Allah that she will be allowed to continue her efforts.

This site will resume operation upon her release.

Giesbrecht is one of two journalists from Canada being held by kidnappers. Amanda Lindout, a freelance journalist, has been held for the past seven months in Sudan.

The National Post reports:

Lisa Monette, a spokeswoman for the Department of Foreign Affairs, told Canwest News Service Thursday night that officials were “aware of this video, but we have no further comment.”

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Two US Reporters Detained In North Korea

U.S. reporters Laura Ling and Euna Lee have been arrested on the North Korea border. They were detained near the border of China after the two ignored orders to stop filming Korean refugees. The reporters were working on a report on their plight.
Youhap news agency spoke to the pair on Tuesday morning while they were in Yanji, China. Rev Chun said that they had planned to go to the border city of Dandong where many North Koreans attempt to escape to South Korea.

Rev Chun works for Seoul-based Durihana Mission that helps North Korean defectors hide in China and other Southeast Asian countries while they seek asylum in the United States and South Korea.

The LA Times reports:

“China is investigating the issue involving relevant U.S. nationals on the border between China and (North Korea),” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang told reporters in Beijing.

Ling and Lee work for Current TV, a network co-founded by former U.S. Vice President Al Gore. Last year the station won an Emmy for the best interactive television news source.

Ling was sending updates to Twitter about the trip. On Saturday her message indicated that she knew that there was danger in where she and Lee were for their report.

“Hoping my kimchee breath will ward off all danger,” she wrote.

In a post three days earlier, she wrote: “Spent the day interviewing young N. Koreans who escaped their country. Too many sad stories.”

It’s being reported by Reuters that the journalists were on the frozen Tumen river when taken by North Korean security guards. It’s not certain if the two were in China or North Korea at the time of the arrest. North Korean guards have often crossed the border themselves making illegal arrests.Another man from the news group was with them was able to escape.

“It’s difficult to comment on this matter because it involves a U.S. citizen, but our government is aware that a U.S. journalist is in detention in the North,” the senior South Korean government official was quoted as saying.

Rev Chun had warned the reporters that is was very dangerous to go to the border and told them not to.


Journalist Saberi seen by lawyer on Sunday, said to be depressed

American journalist Roxana Saberi detained in Iran at Evin prison has been seen been an attorney for the first time on Sunday. The lawyer had been turned away Saturday for not having the right paperwork. Her family is happy to know she is alive.
Saberi’s father said that the lawyer saw no signs of abuse but the journalist is “very depressed.”

AFP reports:

“I met Ms Saberi yesterday (Sunday) at a revolutionary court. She appeared fine,” lawyer Abdolsamad Khoramshahi told AFP.

“I have not read the file yet and can’t comment on the nature of the accusation against her,” he said, adding that he would “see her again in prison in one or two days.”

Saberi is a freelance journalist whose credentials had been revoked in Iran two years ago. Last month the authorities in Iran arrested her after she purchased some wine. Wine is illegal in the Muslim country. Her arrest came at a time though that the Iranian regime has begun to crack down on dissidents in advance of national elections to be held in June.

Inforum.com reports:

“It seems like she was completely isolated from the rest of the world,” Reza Saberi said Sunday, adding that his daughter requested the lawyer bring back a few books from her apartment to read while being detained in a prison north of the Iranian capital of Tehran.

The lawyer also said that Roxana wanted her family to know that she loves them very much.

It has been a week since the plight of the journalist started hitting the media. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has called for the journalist to be released. Last week Iran said that the American should be released “very soon” but did not give a time table for that release.

While Roxana is an American citizen she also holds dual citizenship in Iran. She has resided in Iran for the past six years. Before her press card was revoked two years ago she had reported for the BBC, NPR, and Fox News.

Star Tribune reports:

Her father this week told the Associated Press that he appreciated the efforts of everyone who pressed for her release . Said Reza Saberi: “All over the world, people have objected to this kind of suppression of freedom. They are voicing their outrage.”

There are two Facebook groups offering support for Saberi; Free Roxanz Saberi with 513 members and Release and return journalist Roxana Saberi from IR custody with 2,676 members.


China Plans Blacklist For Journalists By End Of The Year

According to the Huffington Post China is planning on creating a blacklist of journalists. Those journalist are the ones that break the strict Chinese rules for media.
The announcement was made last Friday according to a report in the China Press and Publishing Journal. The agency controls state-owned Chinese media and plans to have a database of media professionals who have broken the rules up within the year.

Journalists that appear on the blacklist will have their press cards taken away. They will be restricted from news reporting and editing news material.

China is well known for controlling what is reported in the media. During the summer games in Beijing some of the rules were temporarily relaxed. That policy has gone with the Olympic flame. Journalists in China are imprisoned when reporting about corruption in the private sector or in the government.

The national database is just one of the means that the government has planned to supervise news coverage according to Li Dongdong, deputy director of the General Administration of Press and Publication. There will also be tightened reviews for press credentials and standardized qualifications for editors of newspapers and magazines.

These measures will not apply to outside journalists. Chinese citizens are forbidden to work as journalist for foreign media organizations.


Indian Journalists And Editor Arrested

Two journalists and their editor were arrested on Tuesday night in Hyderabad, India for publishing an allegedly offensive story on Dalit organizations and its leaders.

The editor and two journalists who write for Andhra Jyothi were taken into custody after the high drama and tensions arose over the story.

The police took Editor K Srinivas and two journalists, Vamsi and Srinivas, into custody from the Jubilee Hills office where the story was published. The police team was led by assistant commissioner of police Ramakrishnaiah.

The police cited the provisions of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Act as the cause of the arrests. The paper had run an article last month that criticized Dalit leaders and their organizations.

The staff of the paper voiced their protest of the arrests by squatting in the staircase and tried to prevent the police from removing their fellow journalists from the office.

As reported in Sify News:

Condemning the arrests, Radhakrishna said, “This is a gross misuse of SC/ST Act.”

He said, “Already our office has been attacked and now our journalists are arrested. After this, what fundamental rights do we journalists have?”.

Dalit outfit Madiga Reservation Porata Samithi (MRPS) was the one that issued a complaint to the police. He is spearheading a movement for increasing reservations for Madigas.


Bilal Hussein Should Be A Free Man Soon

The story of a journalist for the AP has finally got a bit of good news. An Iraqi judicial panel has dismissed all criminal allegations from Bilal Hussein and ordered his release after a detainment of two years and one day with the U.S. military.

The Federal Appeals Court has granted Hussein amnesty on the allegations that the photographer had improper contacts with insurgents who killed Salvatore Santoro.

In December 2004 Hussein and two other journalists were taken by gunpoint to photograph Santoro’s corpse.

The decision made by the panel demands that Hussein be released immediately by the U.S. unless they can prove he has a connection with something else.

The U.S. military has made allegations that Hussein was in co-operation with terrorists and had bomb making materials in his home.

The Pulitzer Prize winning photographer has maintained his innocence throughout his detention. He states that he was only doing his job in a war zone.

The ruling of amnesty closes the case under amnesty law. Hussein has never been taken to trial by the United States.

“We are grateful for the decision of the Amnesty Council and the Iraqi judges,” AP President Tom Curley said after the ruling Sunday. “We look forward to Bilal’s safe return to his family and to AP.”

Hussein has been in United States custody since April 12, 2006 when he was arrested at the apartment he was staying at in Ramadi. He was eventually transferred to Camp Cropper in Baghdad. He has since that time been allowed visits from defence lawyers, family representatives and representatives of the AP.

In December 2007 the United States military referred his case to an investigating judge who after reviewing the case turned it over to the amnesty panel.

The AP has been following the case of their friend and employee. They have made extensive reports on his case. At no time in their investigation was the man who won a Pulitzer Prize for photography in 2005 found guilty of any activities beyond the normal role of a news photographer.

His detention has been widely reported and drawn protests from rights groups and press freedom advocates.

I, myself have been following his case for several months and am very happy that the light at the end of a long tunnel seems to be shining a little brighter. Hopefully Hussein can soon return to reporting the news by his photography skills.


Journalist Dith Pran Dead At 65 From Cancer

Cambodian-born journalist Dith Pran died Sunday morning of pancreatic cancer according to his close friend and associate Sydney Schanberg. The two were colleagues at The New York Times since 1975 when their lives became the basis of “The Killing Fields.”

In 1975 Dith was working as an interpreter and assistant to Sydney Schanberg in Phnom Penh. All outside journalists were forced to leave in April of that year. Schanberg was able to get passage for Dith’s family but his friend was forced to stay behind the lines.

Dith Pran was captured by the Khmer Rouge in enslaved in the ‘killing fields.” Dith is the one who coined the term that is now considered the name of the fields where the Khmer Rouge killed nearly 2 million of the 7 million Cambodian people.

Dith escaped certain death by running away from the fields. In 1979 the colleagues had their reunion when Dith made it to a refugee settlement. Form there Schanberg worked hard to make sure his friend would be able to come to the U.S. to join his family.

“That was the phrase he used from the very first day, during our wondrous reunion in the refugee camp,” Schanberg said later.

During his captivity Dith posed as an uneducated peasant surviving on at times just a mouthful of rice.

Dith relocated to the United States and worked as a photographer for the Times. He also was a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and founded the Dith Pran Holocaust Awareness Project. His project was dedicated to educating people on the history of the horrible regime he survived, the Khmer Rouge.

Three months ago he found out that another life or death fight was looming before him. This time it was cancer. The cancer may have taken his life but the spirit of the man will live on.

“Pran was a true reporter, a fighter for the truth and for his people,” Schanberg said. “When cancer struck, he fought for his life again. And he did it with the same Buddhist calm and courage and positive spirit that made my brother so special.”

Dith’s family include his companion Bette Parslow, his first wife Meoun Ser Dith, sister Samproeuth Dith Nop. His children that were able to escape the tortures of the Killing Fields are sons Titony, Titonath and Titonel and daughter Hemkarey Dith Tan. There are six grandchildren and two step-grandchildren.

Dith’s three brothers were killed by the Khmer Rouge.