While I was in Afghanistan last summer I met a young, budding photojournalist named Amanda Lindhout. She was kidnapped this past August in Somalia along with her Australian colleague Nigel Brennan and their Somali translator, Abdifatah Mohammed. This story has hardly been publicized in the international press, and it’s so telling of the state of affairs today in the world of journalism. So few of us are lucky enough to be salaried or officially sent on assignment to the world’s hotspots, especially when we’re just starting out. Papers or news agencies will give us guranetees that they will buy our stories upon return but they don’t want to allot the budget to support our efforts while on the ground, give us health insurance, or fight to save us if and when we get in trouble. It’s not that they don’t have the money, it’s just that, in my opinion (and one that is shared by many in the business), celebreity journalism is so much more saleable. Publications will give tens of thousands of dollars to get pictures of Britney Spears, head shaved, underwear showing, and having a mental breakdown, but they don’t want to pay for journalists to show the world how people are suffering because of western abuse of power, for example. Somewhere along the line, the media accepted the shackles of the state. It became clear that real journalism can make a difference, that it can shape public opinion, and somehow entertainment news steadfastly took its place. While Amanda may have travelled to Somalia against the advice of colleagues, I also know that if she had been sent by the BBC, for example, they long ago would have mounted a media campaign and coughed up the cash to secure her and her colleagues’ release. Below is the latest press release about their fate.
TEHRAN – Somali kidnappers are threatening to kill Canadian journalist, Amanda Lindhout and Australian photographer, Nigel Brennan if a $2.5 million ransom is not paid in 15 days.
Tehran-based Press TV reported Monday that one of the kidnappers issued the warning to the station’s correspondent in Mogadishu.
Brennan and Lindhout, a freelance television and print reporter from Sylvan Lake in central Alberta, were kidnapped on Aug 23 near Mogadishu. A Somali journalist accompanying them was also abducted.
Lindhout, 27, filed stories from Iraq on behalf of Press TV, Iran’s 24-hour English-language news channel.
The National Union of Somali Journalists expressed their concern Monday over the abduction of the three journalists.
“Their long-standing detention speaks to the deterioration of working conditions for journalists operating in the country” Omar Faruk Osman, the group’s secretary general said in a news release posted on their website.
“We urge all who are involved the negotiations for non-political reasons to use the full extent of their influences in this matter to ensure that three colleagues are immediately and unconditionally released” Osman said.
Last month, Arab television network aired footage of the kidnapped reporters surrounded by armed militants.
The group claiming to be behind the video accused Canada andof “taking part in the destruction of Somalia.”
Kidnappings and piracy are rife in Somalia and off its coast, emerging as a lucrative criminal racket bringing in millions of dollars in ransom.
are holding an arms-laden Ukrainian tanker off its coast and have said they will destroy it on Monday night or early Tuesday unless a ransom is paid.