NYT reporter kidnapped in Kunduz, Afghanistan

According to reports from Afghanistan, New York Times reporter Stephen Farrell and his driver/interpreter have been kidnapped while attempting to cover the story of the NATO airstrike on the two Taliban-hijacked tankers in Kunduz, Afghanistan. The local Afghan press is reporting that a reporter has been kidnapped, although Farrell was not directly named; however, the international press and the wires services have been silent on this issue.

Multiple sources in Afghanistan tell me that The New York Times is attempting to suppress the reporting on Farrell’s kidnapping. The New York Times did the same thing when journalist David Rohde was kidnapped in eastern Afghanistan late last year. Rohde escaped from a Haqqani Network compound in North Waziristan earlier this year. While Rohde’s kidnapping was not publicized, his escape was the subject of abundant reporting. The media has not afforded the US military the courtesy of a news blackout when US troops have been captured in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The kidnapping of Farrell serves only to highlight the deteriorating security situation in the northern province of Kunduz (and neighboring Baghlan).

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • JohnnyB says:

    Bill: This was the most damaging civilian attack in all of our 8 years in Afghanistan. Of course, some “Taliban” were there, but what a loss of the normal Pashtun-Afghani innocent people. It just makes you want to cry. Can you imagine if this were in Lower Manhattan? Reverse it all.
    Keep up the great reporting Bill.

  • Render says:

    Reverse it all?
    What if civilians had stolen Talib fuel? Do you think the Talib would be “investigating” anything beyond when to conduct a mass mutilation?
    Civilian my arse. Real civilians don’t steal fuel at 2am and don’t respond quickly to Talib requests for assistance.
    We don’t have to imagine if it was lower Manhatten. That’s already been documented.

  • Dan Dennis says:

    As a photojournalist that has worked in Iraq and Afghanistan for the past three years, I strongly believe that you are endangering the lives of Mr. Farrell and his interpreter by reporting on their kidnapping before they have been released.
    Your post blatantly disregards the consensus that our colleagues have reached that reporting on the kidnapping would put Mr. Farrell and his interpreter at even greater risk.
    There have been many instances in which the US government has asked for a news blackout when lives are at risk and the media have obliged.
    Whatever your reasons, this is not a time to making a point or justifying yourself. The lives of Mr. Farrell and his interpreter are in grave danger.
    I strongly urge you to reconsider your decision to post this, for the sake of Mr. Farrell and his interpreters families.

  • Bill Roggio says:

    I speak as someone who has reported from both Iraq and Afghanistan since 2005. To me, this is simple. Either a kidnapping is news, or it isn’t. When soldiers, contractors, etc. are kidnapped, it is news. When a reporter is kidnapped, it is also news.

  • Tim Kindred says:

    Hogwash. I have little sympathy for the majority of those reporters aside from Roggio and Yon. The NYT reporters are simply there to further their and the NYT’s agenda. Fishing for Pulitzers.
    Primarily, the biased and slanted reporting of the NYT has been more a case of aiding and abetting our enemies than anything worthwhile.
    Farrell chose to hang around with dogs and snakes and it looks like he got bit.
    Perhaps not the NYT will understand why so many Americans are outraged at their release of classified documents and leaked reports and proposals. It’s a two-way street, Dan. You can’t have it both ways. You can’t claim a blackout to protect your reporters and then turn around and print articles that may well result in American lives lost.

  • Hey Dan,
    You expect people to care about New York Times staff when they work to undermine the safety of the U.S at every turn? I don’t think so.

  • Bill Ardolino says:

    Dan –
    Question, and this is not strictly a pointed one, I’m willing to be convinced: if reporting on kidnappings endangers those who are taken, why is a similar blackout not undertaken when aid workers, diplomats, US military service members and private citizens are taken?
    I believe this post by John LeFevre makes the opposing point:
    And here is just one exact example of quick reporting of a kidnapping published by the NYT itself:
    I’m honestly wondering, aside from exertion of influence in circles where the NYT has it in great quantities, why the case of a journalist is different?
    Yes the media holds back on some stories for a variety of reasons and not others. What are the specific criteria that should enter into these decisions, and be applied to all those taken in similar circumstances?
    Again, this is an honest question. Regards.

  • Dan says:

    If the rules of engagement allow for the enemy to hide within civilian populations, it’s time to bring the troops home.

  • Render says:

    Stephen Farrell is/was well aware of the risks he chose to take. It’s not like he hasn’t been kidnapped by the enemy before.
    He was in danger the minute he stepped into a war zone.
    Your colleagues concensus means as little to us as it does to the Talib.
    Now isn’t the time? When Daniel when is the time to determine which side of the war you’re on?
    I strongly urge you and your fellow reporters from the major media outlets to reconsider your constant leaking of classified data that endangers the lives of US servicemen. I strongly urge you to reconsider the amounts of enemy propaganda you freely inflict upon your readers.
    Most of all I strongly urge you to consider why your business is failing, why so very many people trust you even less then they trust polititions, and why you even do the job you do.
    Lastly Dan, can you provide some links that prove you are who, what, and where you say you are. I can’t seem to find your work anywhere on the Internet…

  • John says:

    Were the lives of Jill Carroll and Alan Johnston endangered when their kidnapping was widely known? The answer is no.

  • TexEd says:

    The New York Times is a reputable newspaper and I don’t believe it would conceal information that the public has a right to know even if it involved one of their own employees.
    No, the only answer can be that the NYT silence is in response to a CIA request to protect one of it’s target spotters; Farrell must still be identifying targets and confirming hits for the CIA and military.
    And, God forbid, should anything happen to this reporter, this brave reporter, I know the NYT will be as sensitive to the feelings of his surviving family members as they are to the survivors of any US Marine.

  • Sanmon says:

    After the AP published a photo of Lance Corporal Joshua Bernard dying in Afghanistan and Profiting from the death of another human being at the expense of that man’s dignity and against the wishes of his own family. I just want to warn all reporters you are fair game on the battle field.
    Don’t protect Julie Jacobson and then expect to be treated any different than the ENEMY.

  • tom ricks says:

    Here is the distinction: I try not to report something when there is a good chance that publication would endanger someone. Sometimes that person is a soldier, sometimes that person is a reporter. It is not a double standard–it is common sense.
    As I said in another context (about the AP’s shameful publication of the photo of a dying Marine), just because you have the right to do something doesn’t mean it is the right thing to do.
    I wish you would take it down.
    Tom Ricks

  • KnightHawk says:

    I have to agree with Bill here, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

  • Alexander Mayer says:

    Like it or not, the point Bill makes about the double standard regarding the media’s treatment of military (or contractor) kidnappings versus reporters’ kidnappings is dead on.
    I remember back in June when the David Rohde controversy was being debated in the aftermath of the revelation that the NYT had kept the lid on the story. The NewsHour did a feature on the ethics behind the debate, and had on the NYT’s Bill Keller to explain the paper’s position.
    When pressed by Jeffrey Brown on this same double-standard charge, Keller had basically no answer, except to reiterate that it was a “hard decision.”
    As Roggio and Ardolino correctly note above, it rarely seems like a “hard decision” for the NYT when it comes to reporting the kidnapping of U.S. military personnel.

  • Paul Kelsey says:

    Bill is completely correct and Dan (who I assume is photographer Danfung Dennis) is completely wrong about everything.
    If this was an expat aid worker, Afghan journalist, or even an Afghan government official the NYT would quickly report it. It’s nothing more than a double standard. Go read about all the kidnappings that have taken place in Afghanistan.
    The Long War Journal should be commended for putting this out there. It makes this online blog seem like one of the best sources of news on Afghanistan.
    The media sources that are ignoring this are not doing a very good job. But it is interesting to see that the New York Times has so much influence on other news sources that they can enforce this double standard.

  • Render says:

    Maybe you (mainstream major press ho’s) should have thought of this last July.
    Danfung Dennis eh? Nice website. Made sure to publish the names of as many US soldiers as he could. Every war pic on there looks like somebody’s searching for the next “grim milestone” Pulitzer shot. That captions alone betray Mr. Dennis’s lack of neutrality.
    Nice picture of a Canadian Army route map too, looking for that Geraldo finger-n-the-sand award there too Danfung?
    BTW Danfung, the Candian AT-4 AT rocket is 84mm, not 86mm.

  • I don’t understand – What is the benefit of keeping the name of the reporter and the fact of the kidnapping out of the media. What was the benefit in he case of David Rohde? Was it to negotiate a lower ransom?
    I can’t think of another reason, perhaps you could explain.

  • FORAC says:

    This career security manager has protected his share of SAPs and ACCMs…and I keep seeing them on the front page of the New York Times.
    Pray tell: why is it kosher for NYT to leak classified information, then complain when a blogger refuses to keep something secret because they said so? Many of the leaks from the NYT were active, compartmentalized programs. This reporter? All over Google News. People with SIPR knew about Daniel Perle for over a year. The reason THEY didn’t say anything, was because it was classified. What a novel idea.
    As far as I’m concerned, DIA DCHC and the FBI need follow and investigate every single NYT reporter and blogger. They’ve been leaking classified information for years and many of it could and should be tried as treason. Fortunately, he survived the rescue attempt (by Brits, no less, I guess CJSOTF-A doesn’t like rescuing traitors). Now he go back to the NYT offices and inform them that yes, Virginia, there is a war on terror. The TB and AQ, LTTE, AQIM, et al don’t care if you’re liberal or conservative. If you’re American, you’re a target. I’m glad he got captured and I’m glad he got rescued. This needs to happen domestically. Perhaps if we had a kidnapping or attempted (but foiled) plot the reporters, policymakers and the public will start being cognizant of the threat. It’s real and this entire episode proves that.
    Next time, don’t leak classified information. The boys at Bagram or farther east are more likely to come get you if you’re not a traitor. Which is exactly why 22 SAS did it, and not CJSOTF-A, or any other assets in-theater. Dollars to donuts they said hell no. I applaud that decision if it actually happened that way.
    Back in my lane.

  • MILNEWS.ca says:

    Short simple question for anyone in the media: Why is it OK to withhold information about kidnapped REPORTERS (Stephen Farrell, David Rohde) because of the risk to their safety and not OK to do the same for a kidnapped SOLDIER (Bowe Bergdahl)?
    Anyone up to sharing a short, simple answer to this one?

  • Jack Burton says:

    I’m sorry, am I really hearing from reporters asking for someone not to release information about a kidnapping, of a NYT’s reporter none the less, because it may put them at risk? Really?
    That’s pretty funny considering how many secret documents the New York Times has released over the years that have put US soldiers and intelligence agent’s lives in danger. While this man has a family and it would have been unfortunate if the release of this information had gotten him killed, I could really care less considering the actions of his organization.
    As it turns out, a brave soldier, someone the times never hesitates to put in harms way, did die rescuing this person. So sad.

  • Both calls for suppression of the news, both the kidnapping, and the photo of the dying soldier, are wrong.
    To say the AP was wrong, is to say that Robert Capa, and every other reporter who takes pictures of the reality of war, is wrong.
    The reason that there is this myth about not reporting soldiers injuries or deaths, is not about protecting soldiers, but rather about concealing their sacrifices in order to avoid criticism of those old who sent the young men out to die.
    As to the suggestion of a blackout on the kidnapping of a Times reporter, but full reporting of the kidnapping NGO members, civilians, tourists, clergy, etc., the only answer here is that it is all about solipsism: For some in the press, a New York Times reporter is sacrosanct, while the other people are news.
    So, the thin blue line that protects corrupt cops, becomes a thin newsprint line that protects journalists.


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