Richard Engel Kidnapping a Reminder of the Perils of Reporting: These 8 Journalists Weren't So Lucky
NBC News’ Chief Foreign Correspondent Richard Engel was released from captivity in Syria on Monday. The front-lines reporter and his four-man production team were traveling through a rebel-controlled area five days earlier when they were taken prisoner by unknown gunmen. Engel and crew were composed and collected in an NBC live appearance in Turkey earlier this morning, describing how they were taken to safe houses and interrogation cites, bound and blindfolded. Palpable relief for their safe return aside, Engel’s capture is a critical reminder of the perils journalists assume in covering wars and political transitions, in a context of dire international relations. Below are eight other journalists who took Engel’s same risk for the dissemination of information, only two of whom survived.
Killed January 11, in Syria. Jacquier, a French TV reporter, died during a government-authorized trip in the city of Homs. He was with 15 other foreign journalists — his mission to document the protests — when he was killed by a grenade attack. Jacquier was the first Western journalist to die in country since the start of the Syrian uprising in March 2011.
Killed February 22, in Syria. Just over a month after Jacquier’s untimely death, Colvin was killed during a shell attack after illegally smuggling herself into the country to cover the war. The New York Times mourned the loss of the sensational American journalist, described as "a sometimes larger-than-life figure to those who knew her only through her often harrowing accounts in The Sunday Times of London.”
Was killed April 18, 1945, on the island of Ie Shima. Pyle’s death happened decades before Jaquier or Colvin’s, but his mission prior to was the same — tell the story. The 1944 Pulitzer Prize winner is arguably the most famous American war correspondent — he served as a reporter and columnist for the Scripps Howard newspaper chain, and covered the United States’ involvement in North Africa, Sicily, Italy and France.
Was killed February 1, 2002, in Pakistan. Pearl, an American journalist for the Wall Street Journal, was based in Mumbai, India, at the time of his kidnapping and murder in Pakistan. In early 2011, the Washington Post interviewed Daniel’s father, Judea, 10 years after Pearl’s death to discuss the Daniel Pearl Foundation, established to “address the root causes of this tragedy, in the spirit, style, and principles that shaped Danny’s work and character.”
Died February 26, in Syria. Shadid, an Oklahoma native and foreign correspondent for the New York Times, was in Syria gathering information on the Free Syrian Army when he suffered a fatal asthma attack hours before he was due to leave the country. The Pulitzer Prize winner’s travels through the country were mostly made at night and by horseback, conditions believed to have triggered Shadid’s attack.
Was wounded January 29, 2006, in Iraq. Woodruff survived a roadside bombing in Taji, Iraq, but only just. The ABC News reporter was wearing protective armor when his vehicle exploded, but it didn’t prevent agonizing months of rehabilitative surgery and treatment, or years of ongoing recovery. Miraculously, Woodruff returned to work a mere 13 months after the near fatal attack.
Was detained in 2009 in North Korea. The Current TV reporter and fellow journalist Euna Lee were captured in early 2009 for crossing the North Korea border while in China. The journalists were sentenced to 12 years hard labor and held in captivity for three months until former U.S. President Bill Clinton helped secure their return.
Was killed February 22in Syria. French photographer Ochlik was just 28-years old when he died with Marie Colvin in Homs. Though early into his career, the talented photojournalist had already covered the revolution in Libya, Tunisia, and Egypt.
This is by no means a comprehensive list, and it is horrifying to consider that in time, only more names will be added to it. One of the keys to good journalism is personal detachment from the story, for the sake of transparency and impartiality. It has been suggested that social media today provides "new ways of telling news stories [and] important insight into the grueling realities of our world, and comes to play where conventional journalism fails." Of course, it can be fairly argued that social media coverage isn’t enough, and if there aren’t reporters willing to spread the story, then who will — but where does one draw the line?