A journalist, lured by the promise of an exclusive interview, is taken hostage by a militant group calling itself The National Movement for the Restoration of Pakistani Sovereignty. The group, using the free email account firstname.lastname@example.org, claims the reporter is a is a spy and gives the U.S. two days to meet its demands, which range from freeing all Pakistani terror detainees to releasing a halted U.S. shipment of F-16 fighter jets to the Pakistani government.
"We give u 1 more day if America will not meet our demands we will kill Daniel," said the message. "Then this cycle will continue and no American journalist could enter Pakistan." Haunting pictures of the captive in classic B-movie poses handcuffed with a gun at his head, holding up a newspaper were attached.
And all this would be material for that central column, but for the fact Daniel Pearl, whose wife, Marianne, is pregnant with their first child, was being held somewhere in Karachi, Pakistan, with a gun to his head.
As a media story, of course, the Pearl saga had the added hook much like the anthrax letter to Tom Brokaw of being about one of our own. Pearl's boss, Wall Street Journal managing editor Paul Steiger, pleaded with the group to at least restore Pearl to the role that led him to the Village restaurant the night of Jan. 22 "View Danny as a messenger," Steiger wrote and that is what shakes journalists most about the story. Hotspot reporters know the risks, but they're also used to thinking that what they do for a living, namely, tell their stories to millions of people, is more valuable than anything they could bring in ransom.
In Daniel Pearl's case, that assumption proved tragically incorrect. Thursday the Wall Street Journal confirmed that Pearl had indeed been killed by his captors. All journalists will mourn him as a courageous colleague whose story has reminded us that the pursuit of truth is sometimes no protection in a dangerous world.