Freelancer Jill Carroll Still Held Hostage in Iraq

-February 28, 2006

Gerard Colby, President of the National Writers Union has joined the international organization Reporters Without Borders in calling for the release of American freelance journalist Jill Carroll, who was kidnapped on the outskirts of Baghdad on January 7th.

Carroll was writing freelance articles for the Christian Science Monitor at the time of her abduction. She had planned to interview a Sunni politician in one of the more dangerous neighborhoods in Baghdad when several well dressed men took over her car and apparently killed her interpreter. Her driver escaped.

Carroll’s abductors demanded the release of all female prisoners in Iraq, and set an initial deadline for January 20, which they later extended to February 26th.
“With the deadline of Jill’s threatened execution now passed, and no definitive word of her safety or whereabouts, we must assume that she is still alive. We as freelance journalists must redouble our efforts to bring attention to Jill Carroll’s plight and the difficulties she and other freelance journalists have been facing in Iraq,” Colby said in a prepared press release.

“Iraq is becoming more dangerous by the day,” he said. “Only last week, a woman reporter for Al Arabiya newspaper, Atwar Bahjat, and two of her associates were murdered in Samarra near the revered Shiite shrine that was bombed. Sadly, she was one of the journalists who was working with the Christian Science Monitor to try and obtain Jill Carroll’s release.”

Colby noted that freelance journalists are particularly at risk in Iraq, since they do not have the same protections in Iraq that embedded reporters have. “Jill Carroll herself wrote about reporters ‘becoming virtual prisoners in their hotel rooms,’” Colby said. “She described how embedded journalists are not allowed to venture beyond armored cars and the heavily protected Green Zone.

“Jill Carroll, on the other hand, was going out into Baghdad neighborhoods, talking to civilians, getting their stories. “That’s how much she cared about getting the truth to the American people about conditions in Iraq.”

In his statement, Colby pointed to a report recently released by the New York Committee to Protect Journalists describing Iraq as the deadliest country for journalists in the last quarter century. Since the war began in March, 2003, 61 journalists have died, surpassing 58 journalists killed in Algeria from 1993-1996.

Contact: Gerard Colby, 212-254-0279

Colby also joined Reporters Without Borders in calling for the release of two Iraqi journalists, Reem Zaid and Marwant Khazal, who were abducted outside the offices of the Iraqi Islamic Party, a Sunni group, on February 2nd.