Life of Foreign Correspondent Drew Carroll to Iraq

Colin Freeman, a reporter for the Sunday Telegraph in London, says Jill Carroll had harbored dreams of being a foreign correspondent, which is why she went to Iraq to report on the war as a freelancer. Freeman knew Carroll in Iraq and says she was able to blend in better than many other Western reporters.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

This is MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

And I'm Renee Montagne. Christian Science Monitor Reporter Jill Carroll is safe in Iraq. She was released earlier this morning, after spending nearly three months in captivity. She was dropped off near the offices of the Iraqi Islamic party, walked inside, and reportedly, people there called American officials. Jill Carroll talked about the experience on Baghdad television.

Ms. JILL CARROLL (Reporter, The Christian Science Monitor): I was kept in a very good, small, safe place--a safe room. Nice furniture, they gave me clothing, plenty of food. I was allowed to take showers and go to the bathroom when I wanted. Very good. Never hit me, never even threatened to hit me. The room had a window, but the glass was, you know, you can't see, and it's curtains--and you couldn't hear any sound. So, I would sit in the room, I had to take a shower, I walk two feet, you know, next, to next door, take a shower, go to the bathroom, come back. That's all. So, I don't know what, where I was, or what was going on.

MONTAGNE: Jill Carroll being interviewed on TV in Baghdad. Also this morning, Jill Carroll's editor at the Christian Science Monitor, Richard Bergenheim, read a statement from her family about the release.

Mr. RICHARD BERGENHEIM (Editor, The Christian Science Monitor): We would like to thank all of the generous people around the world who worked officially or unofficially, especially those who took personal risk to gain Jill's release. We're also very grateful for the support of the Iraqi people, who've shown the world a deep compassion for Jill's situation, and many people in the press in Baghdad as well.

MONTAGNE: Reading a statement by the Carroll family, Richard Bergenheim, Jill Carroll's editor at the Christian Science Monitor, after her release this morning.

INSKEEP: We're going to turn now to a colleague of Jill Carroll's, a reporter who also did freelance work from Baghdad. He's now fulltime for the Sunday Telegraph in London. Colin Freeman is on the line from there. Mr. Freeman, welcome to the program.

Mr. COLIN FREEMAN (Reporter, The Sunday Telegraph): Hi.

INSKEEP: How'd you come to know Jill Carroll?

Mr. FREEMAN: Well, we were both freelancers in Baghdad together from about 2003 onwards. We used to exchange woes and difficulties that there were sometimes, of freelancing out there.

INSKEEP: I've got to say, it's one thing to go to a dangerous place like Iraq with a major news organization behind you, but to go on your own seems like an entirely different thing.

Mr. FREEMAN: Well, in the early days immediately after the war, it wasn't. I wouldn't have actually said that it was actually any more dangerous than any other country, you know. Some parts of Africa, or whatever. It was only really latterly that it became dangerous, with kidnappers specifically targeting Westerners.

INSKEEP: Can you describe the way security has changed for reporters over the last three years? What did you do in the beginning? What did you do after a year or two, and what are people doing now?

Mr. FREEMAN: In the old days, you could pretty much go anywhere in the country. That then changed as the insurgency grew--places like Fallujah and other hotbeds of the insurgency began to become dangerous to go to. If we went out there now, you will find that you really can't go anywhere other than a few districts in Baghdad, which are fairly safe to go to. The rest of the county's pretty much off limits, unless you're with a military escort.

INSKEEP: Do you know any reporters who've given up the hunt?

Mr. FREEMAN: Yes, quite a few have just decided there really isn't much that you can add in terms of value added, in terms of being on the ground, though, anymore. You know, and they've just decided that the risks are too great, or they've got a girlfriend or a wife or family. Obviously, people who are in that position have other people to think about, as well as themselves.

INSKEEP: And what do you think kept Jill Carroll there all this time, all the way up until her kidnapping?

Mr. FREEMEN: Well, she used to enjoy being out there. There's no doubt about that. She spoke Arabic as well, which meant that she had a connection with people that, somebody like me, a non-Arabic speaker wouldn't be able to get. And also, as a woman, she was able to sort of dress in the sort of the black dress and headdress, which you may have seen pictures of her, and which, you know, did afford her a certain level of anonymity that me, as a sort of Western male, would not be able to get.

INSKEEP: But in the end, that wasn't enough.

Mr. FREEMAN: No. I don't know the, there may be sort of details of the circumstances of her capture that I'm not party to at the moment. But, I mean, it just goes to prove that is pretty much a game of Russian roulette out there. You never know what things might go wrong.

INSKEEP: Colin Freeman is a reporter for The Sunday Telegraph, now in London. Thanks very much.

Mr. FREEMAN: You're welcome.

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