The Abduction of Jill Carroll

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When Jill Carroll, 28, a Baghdad-based freelancer for the Christian Science Monitor was kidnapped on Saturday, the tightly knit community of reporters in the Iraqi capital knew of the abduction within hours. But in an almost unprecedented move, media organizations in Baghdad— Arabic and English alike—kept a lid on the news in hopes that a media blackout would give negotiators and rescuers time to win her release. For two days it mostly held, to the point where early reports mentioning her affiliation with the Christian Science Monitor were pulled from Web pages. A blog kept by her sister called “Lady of Arabia,” which detailed many of Carroll’s exploits in Baghdad, was pulled down.

“It wasn't just U.S. media, there were various Italian agencies that ran with a lot of details, and a Kuwaiti news agency that ran with it, they all pulled it down,” the Monitor’s managing editor, Marshall Ingwerson, told Editor & Publisher. “Basically, everyone who ran with it, once we reached them, was cooperative. I was surprised and very heartened that people were so willing to help us.”

There was fear that her affiliation with a paper with the word “Christian” in the title might cause her captors to treat her harshly. After two days however, the Monitor ran a story of its own and other media organizations followed suit. “Jill worked for a lot of newspapers and media from many countries,” Ingwerson told E&P. “She is not a Monitor staffer.”

Carroll was kidnapped Saturday in a notorious neighborhood of Iraq’s capital. A flurry of gunmen wielding pistols surrounded her car just about a 1,000 feet from the office of a prominent Sunni politician that she had just left. Carroll had reportedly been there to interview Adnan al-Dulaimi, the leader of the Iraqi Accordance Front, a Sunni political party. He wasn’t there and she left after waiting between 20 and 30 minutes. According to the driver and witnesses, the gunmen forced the driver to stop, then pulled him out of the car, piled in and drove away with Carroll and her translator, Allan Enwiyah, 32. “All together, it didn't take 10 seconds,” Carroll's driver told the Washington Post Monday night. Later Saturday, Enwiyah was found dead on the side of a road in Adel, the neighborhood where they were taken. To date there has been no communications with the men who took Carroll and no claims of responsibility.

Carroll was traveling in a single car with only her driver and translator, a travel arrangement that many reporters avoid these days in Baghdad. Most travel in two cars: the lead car and a “chase car” carrying guards who may or may not be armed. “We had a number of discussions with her and our staffers there about security, but ultimately it’s their choice,” David Clark Scott, the international editor for the Monitor, told TIME. “Money is not an issue when it comes to getting a second car; it’s how high or how low a profile you want to have.”

Among journalists in Baghdad, Carroll is known as a compassionate, scrupulous reporter who cares deeply for the Iraqi people. Though she keeps an apartment in Cairo, she once said she would love to move to Baghdad if the security situation had allowed. She told friends she felt she had made a connection with the Iraqi culture. Clad in jeans and sweaters while inside the hotel compound where she lived, she chose to go outside on assignments wearing the full-length abaya that more and more Iraqi women are donning since the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime. She speaks Arabic well enough to get by, but employed a translator, Enwiyah, an Iraqi Christian, for complicated interviews. Her language skills have allowed her to interview Iraqis on the streets, and she said that her respect for their dress and customs have often led them to welcome her and to open their lives to her. Often she spoke of the kindness that Iraqi women showed her or the protection Iraqi men offered after she interviewed them, whether in their gilded offices or their hardscrabble homes.

“There are more lucrative ways to work and faster ways to advance a career,” she wrote in March 2005 for the American Journalism Review. “But just as athletes do it for love of the game, freelancers in Iraq seem to do it for love of the story.” But she was acutely aware of the dangers in the Iraq story, too. “The anger and violence have only gotten worse since” April 2004, she wrote in AJR, and she specifically mentioned kidnapping as a threat.

Insurgents have kidnapped 36 reporters since April 2004, when abductions surged, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. Most were released, but RAI correspondent Enzo Baldoni, an Italian, was killed in August 2004. Steven Vincent, an American freelancer, was killed in Basra in August 2005. The number of Iraqi journalists killed or kidnapped is much higher. “Baghdad has become a deathtrap for journalism,” said Aidan White, General Secretary for the International Federation of Journalists. “No journalist is safe once they take to the streets.”