Friend Calls Jill Carroll a 'Careful Journalist'

Steve Inskeep talks to Washington Post reporter Jackie Spinner, who is a close friend of freed journalist Jill Carroll. Spinner says that Carroll was a "careful journalist" who spoke arabic and was sensitive to the culture of Iraq.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Here's more information now on the release of Jill Carroll. She was an American hostage in Baghdad, 28 years old, a journalist who was working for the Christian Science Monitor when she was abducted in early January. Today she reportedly was left in the street near the offices of the Iraqi Islamic Party, which is a major group there.

Joining us now is reporter Jackie Spinner of the Washington Post. She worked with Jill Carroll in Baghdad, describes her as a close friend. Few people perhaps have followed this story as closely as she has. Jackie, good morning.

Ms. JACKIE SPINNER (Reporter, Washington Post): Good morning. Thanks for having me.

INSKEEP: What have you been able to learn from your contacts about how Jill Carroll was released?

Ms. SPINNER: Well, I know that I got a call very early this morning from Baghdad. We learned very quietly in our newsroom what was going on and we decided to just not report it for a while, until we were able to break it that she had been handed over to a Sunni political group, and they were delivering her to the headquarters of the group in Baghdad. And from what I understand she's now safe with the US embassy.

INSKEEP: Was her release negotiated, was it paid for?

Ms. SPINNER: You know, we're just learning those details. I don't think we're going to know for some time exactly what happened. I mean this has been hours, really, since we even knew that she was safe.

INSKEEP: Now, you worked alongside Jill Carroll in Baghdad. Can you describe the way that she worked?

Ms. SPINNER: She was a very careful journalist. I think there's a lot been said about the fact that, you know, she was abducted, and had she taken an unusual risk that got her in this situation? I think that's absolutely not true. Jill spoke Arabic, she knew the nuances of the culture, of the country. She was able to negotiate her way through society, looking very anonymous.

But you know, kidnapping is the most pervasive fear that any of us have as a correspondent in Iraq.

INSKEEP: How has it made it more difficult to understand on a very basic level what's actually happening in the country?

Ms. SPINNER: Well, certainly we can't get to part of the country because of this kidnapping threat, and because of the fear of violence. I still think we're getting the majority of the story, because we all are, as Jill did, we rely on our Iraqi stringers and our translators, and they are able to go to parts of the country where we as Westerners can't go. But it does have a dampening effect on our ability to cover the country.

INSKEEP: And let's mention that quite a few Iraqis have been killed, including a number of Iraqis who work for news organizations.

Ms. SPINNER: That's very true, and I think, when I first heard that Jill had been kidnapped, you know, my stomach dropped, thinking of her held hostage, but often knowing that she had probably witnessed the murder of her translator in front of her, and I know that for Jill that had to have been such a horrific thing.

INSKEEP: Well, Jackie Spinner, thanks very much.

Ms. SPINNER: Thanks for having me.

INSKEEP: Jackie Spinner is a reporter for the Washington Post.

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