Where is Ken?
Mtl journalist hostage of Taliban This post was written by MJ on November, 29 2001
Ken Hechtman, a Mtl freelancer and brother of a friend of mine, is being held hostage by the Taliban. Details are few, but it looks like he was grabbed after being offered “a tour” of the area. The Globe is reporting an English journalist was given Ken’s business card and told “that when we surrender, if we do not get money, maybe we will kill [him] because these are the people we do not like.”
CP: Swedish cameraman eighth journalist killed in war
Hechtman’s last report
Mirror’s Matthew Hays: “this is an act of desparation by the Taliban”
Montreal Mirror: “Ken Who?”
Less than a day after word broke local freelancer Ken Hechtman had been captured and taken hostage by pro-Taliban forces in Afghanistan, it looks like the two media outlets who have been pleased to run his pieces — “well researched, well written and unique in perspective,” according to one publisher — are now downplaying their links to him.
This morning, rookie Mirror news editor Patrick Lejtenyi was quoted in CP saying “he’s not really a journalist” and “it was really kind of like the first assignment that he’s done. He just wanted to go.”
Similarly, Ish Theilheimer, publisher of straightgoods.ca, the other outlet to print his stuff, went from calling Hechtman their “Afghanistan correspondent” Tuesday to calling him in an email this morning a freelancer and pointing out “we know Ken by e-mail only, a good and intrepid writer and reporter, clearly working on his own hook.”
Why won’t Theilheimer and the Mirror say: “He’s our guy, he’s our reporter; as it’s against every convention of war to imprison journalists, we want Canadian and American forces to take every action to get Ken released now”?
Only François Bugingo, with the local chapter of Reporters without Borders, has done the right thing: “We’re looking for a contact to negotiate his release.”
Foreign Affairs: Looking into “whether a kidnapping has taken place, who is behind it and what they want.”
Alistair Sutherland, Mtl Mirror’s editor-in-chief: “We sent an E-mail on Monday saying, ‘It’s enough, now come back’ and then we heard this happened.”
USAToday: “Journalists are increasingly at risk in Afghanistan. It’s well known that many carry large amounts of cash to pay for food, transportation, lodging and interpreters in a country where credit cards are useless.”
Reporters sans frontieres, global body that fights for press freedom and against the targetting of journalists.
Conflicting reports from Afghanistan’s border region on the fate of Montreal journalist Ken Hechtman: The Taliban says they put him in a cab and sent him home; a Pakistan intelligence source says he’s still being held.
A report in the Washington Post reveals that Spin Boldak, the Afghan border town believed to be where Montreal journalist Ken Hechtman is being held hostage, is controlled by smugglers, drug lords and soon-to-be-ex Taliban. CNN’s Nic Robertson is reporting tribal leaders and the Taliban are negotiating to hand over Spin Boldak.
In Montreal, Francois Bugingo of Reporters sans frontieres is hopeful Hechtman will be released, and says that fact that Hechtman was not killed immediately means his captors want to talk and make a deal.
Hechtman was the lead story on Access Hollywood (!) last night, and identified as a Montreal journalist, making the Mirror the only paper so far to say he was not a journalist.
Taliban: “We ‘aint got him”
Sevunts on Hechtman: Held by Taliban, bandits or who?
Levon Sevunts, a former Russian soldier who also covered the beginning of the war in Afghanistan for the Gazoo, sheds some light on the situation on the ground in Spin Boldak, presumed location of Ken Hechtman.
“It was not known whether Hechtman was taken by Taliban or by bandits. If it was bandits, they could by affiliated with either the Taliban or the Pashtun. But the Pashtun outside the town are in two groups belonging to a mutual enmity society. Taliban fighters in Spin Boldak want to surrender to elders from both the Nurzai and the Ashakzai tribes as a means of guaranteeing their own security, but Nurzai and Ashakzai leaders each want unilateral control, said Pakistani government officials on the border.”
The remainder of the article is just a rehash of what’s already known: Foreign Affairs has sent embassy staff to the region; Bugingo of RsF is trying to negotiate release; a staffer at the Mirror — this time Matthew Hays — helpfully points out that Hechtman “is not a professional journalist.”
Reporters sans Frontieres communique: “Reporters Without Borders (RSF) expressed its deep concern after the kidnapping of Canadian freelance journalist Ken Hechtman in the south of Afghanistan. ‘The threats of killing him must be serious, considering the recent murders of eight journalists in Afghanistan,’ Robert Ménard, RSF general secretary commented.” RSF also wants the Afghan leaders meeting in Bonn, Germany to investigate the murders of eight journalists in the war.
Today’s $55,000 question is…
… might Hechtman soon be released? An anonymous Pakistani intelligence officer in the border town of Chaman, Pakistan said Hechtman is being held by a Pashtun gang who want two million Pakistani rupees – or, about $CAN 55,000, reports AP. Let’s hope the report is legit and means a deal will soon be done to get Hechtman home.
Hechtman free & fine
Montreal journalist Ken Hechtman has been freed by the Taliban and is in good health, according to AP. Hechtman, who was not mistreated, said his only worry was “some angry young hothead was going to shoot me.”