Newspapers Mix Pleas and Prayers for Kidnapped Reporter’s Return

By: Joe Strupp

As the deadline set by the captors of freelancer Jill Carroll approaches today, newspapers from Chicago to Boston are printing pleas, and prayers, for her safe return. Her main employer, the Christian Science Monitor, had asked for prayers on Thursday.

At the same time, the Monitor today linked online to four of her previous Iraq reports in which the reporter strives to show the plight of regular Iraqis.

“Jill is well aware that traveling around Iraq is dangerous for journalists. But what she often talks about is how dangerous Iraq has become for its ordinary citizens, especially if they wander into the wrong neighborhood,” Monitor Middle East Editor Michael Farrell wrote to introduce a Carroll story from October. “Here she writes about how the growing sectarian divide in Iraq has led to neighborhoods segregated along religious lines.”

The other three stories to which the Monitor page links involve the brutality used by Iraqi forces on citizens, the needs of the nation’s Sunni voters, and the effects of the war on one local family.

“Jill was passionate about this story, one of the first she filed for us,” Farrell wrote about the last article, on the Yasseen family. “For her, it was one of the most important to tell about the war in Iraq. And this particular piece led to an outpouring of financial contributions for Zeinab Yasseen and her family from Monitor readers. It was one of those pieces that made an immediate difference.”

Carroll, 28, was abducted Jan. 7 in an incident in which her translator was killed. Earlier this week, a tape showing her being held was released by her kidnappers, along with a demand that Iraq and U.S. officials release eight Iraqi women being held as prisoners. The captors said Carroll would be killed if the demands were not met by today.

Monitor editors did not return calls seeking comment. A spokesman at the U.S. embassy in Baghdad told E&P there was nothing new on Carroll’s situation.

Iraq officials had said they recommended that six of the women be released, but U.S. officials have indicated no such release would be made.

The Monitor’s posting of the collection of Carroll stories appeared a day after the Monitor posted a story about a staffer praying for Carroll that ran on a page dedicated to spiritual issues. That story appeared to rub off on at least two other newspapers, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Journal-Standard of Freeport, Ill.

At the Sun-Times, Religion Writer Cathleen Falsani wrote an emotional piece about how she had been praying for Carroll and how such prayer seems appropriate in this case.

“The first and last line of defense for many of us would be prayer. I’d pray. We’d all pray, even those of us who don’t really believe in prayer. Or in God,” Falsani wrote in the Friday story. “I’ve prayed for Jill this week. I’m praying for her right now. So are thousands of people around the world.”

In the Journal-Standard, the request for prayer took the form of an editorial, which said, in part, “Now is the most critical time for Jill, a final chance for the world to pressure its leaders and those of other governments to do anything possible to secure her release. We join the journalism community and much of the world in pleading and praying for Carroll’s safe return to her family.”

For the Boston Globe, an editorial also sought to support Carroll, although not through prayer. The Globe piece pointed out Carroll’s efforts to show the plight of the regular Iraqi and portrayed her abduction as an example of the dangers for reporters in Iraq.

“By all accounts Carroll, a freelance writer on assignment for The Christian Science Monitor, has felt a deep sympathy for Iraqis,” the Globe wrote, later stating, “somebody with her sensibilities, willing to take risks, is just the kind of reporter that is needed to explain the turbulence in Iraq to Americans.”

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