Jill Carroll Returns to Middle East — One Year After Abduction

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By: Joe Strupp

Jill Carroll, the Christian Science Monitor reporter who spent more than 80 days in captivity in Iraq last year before being freed following an international call for her release, has retuned to the Middle East, currently reporting out of Cairo for the paper.

Monitor Editor Richard Bergenheim confirmed that Carroll had been working out of Cairo following her leave of absence last fall to serve as a fellow at the Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University.

“She has been working for a month now, on a few reporting projects, but we have not made any final decisions [about her permanent assignment],” he told E&P. “We have played it very low key because the less publicity about this the better.”

When asked about concerns related to Carroll’s foreign reporting return, Bergenheim declined to comment other than to say they had not publicized the assignment to ensure her safety.

Carroll, who was kidnapped just over a year ago in Baghdad during an incident in which her driver was killed, followed her release last spring by writing an extensive series on her 82-day ordeal, which also included online video interviews and became the Monitor’s most popular syndicated series and web-based report.

A search of the Monitor Web site finds a recent story by Carroll dated March 5 about Lybian leader Muammar Qaddafi’s 30 years in power, as well as involvement in a Feb. 13 story about security in Baghdad. She also contributed to a reporter’s notebook-type Web page with an item about how reporters at the Qaddafi anniversary celebration were required to wear vests with the word “PRESS” written on them and white caps with Qaddafi’s photo.

“Everyone donned the vests, but for some, the hats were a step too far,” Carroll wrote. “A quiet rebellion was on to hold the hats but not to wear them. The idea was to maintain a level of independence without angering the minders.”

Monitor spokesman Jay Jostyn also confirmed that Carroll was now based in Cairo, but said that is the only information being released.

During her Shorenstein fellowship, Carroll wrote a 23-page report that criticized cutbacks in foreign news coverage and claimed that that media companies reducing foreign bureaus and correspondents in the face of financial pressure “are making a financial miscalculation and missing an opportunity to capitalize on an asset that they appear to undervalue.”

The report was posted on the Shorenstein Web site on Jan. 23, but was removed soon after when a dispute over at least one of the statistics about foreign bureau closings arose. Alex Jones, Shorenstein director, said The Sun of Baltimore had raised the contention that Carroll had cited the closing of a bureau that remained open, but was planned for closure.

“We found that she used some statistics about how many foreign bureaus had been shutdown and the Sun disputed one of the numbers,” Jones said. “It is factual accuracy that we want so she is going over it to wring out anything that is not sure. It is being revised and will be put back up shortly.”

Jones said Carroll had been working on the report from Cairo while also covering news for the Monitor, a situation that has delayed the review somewhat. “The fact that she has been out of the country has made it more complicated,” he said.

Carroll could not immediately be reached for comment. She has not responded to an e-mail seeking a response.

Jones said it is not unusual for a fellowship report to require additional reporting or changes, adding that the Shorenstein Center may have posted the report too soon. “In fairness to Jill, we may have been in a rush to get it up,” he said. “We maybe should have given her more time to get the kinks out.”

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