Irish New York Times journalist Stephen Farrell missing in Libya


AN IRISH journalist has been reported missing in Libya by his New York
Times editor.
Stephen Farrell, who was rescued by British special forces after he was kidnapped by the Taliban in 2009, was with three colleagues at the time.
The journalists – who are all veterans of various war zones – were last in contact with their editors on Tuesday.
At the time, they were in the town of Ajdabiya, the north eastern Libyan town that has seen violent clashes between the government and opposition forces.
Since then, Farrell’s editors have heard claims that he and his colleagues have been seized by Libyan troops.
The Libyan government have, however, denied this.
Last night, both the British and Irish governments were treating the reports of  the disappearance of Farrell – who has joint Irish and British citizenship – seriously.
A Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman said last night: ‘We are investigating this matter.’
Bill Keller, executive editor of the New York Times, said in a statement: ‘There were second-hand reports of Times journalists being swept up by advancing
Libyan government forces.
‘But in the disorder of the embattled eastern region this could not be
confirmed.
‘We have talked with officials of the Libyan government in Tripoli, and they tell us they are attempting to ascertain the whereabouts of our journalists.
‘We are grateful to the Libyan government for their assurance that if our journalists were captured they would be released promptly and unharmed.’
The missing journalists are the paper’s twice Pulitzer Prize-winning Beirut bureau chief Anthony Shadid, Farrell, and photographers Tyler Hicks and Lynsey Addario.
‘Their families and their colleagues at The Times are anxiously seeking information about their situation, and praying that they are safe.’ Keller added.
A British Army soldier, an Afghan interpreter working with Farrell and
two Afghan civilians died in the mission to rescue him in 2009.
But it wasn’t the first time he had been seized while working in a war zone.
In April 2004, when he was working for the Times in London, he was
kidnapped with a colleague while covering the siege of Falluja in Iraq.
He later told how and the colleague were pulled from an armoured
vehicle he was driving and robbed at gun point, then ‘on [up] the food
chain… to people who describe themselves as the resistance, the unofficial fighters against the American-led coalition’.
The men were interrogated for more than eight hours before they were
eventually released.
He told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation at the time: ‘We were lucky, pretty much the first to be kidnapped and we managed to find some way of talking our way out of it.
‘As we were driven away in a taxi, one guy was trying to blindfold me while head butting me at the same time.
‘The guy on my right had a knife to my throat. The guy in front of me
had a Kalashnikov to my head.
‘And you are just trying to work out which is the biggest threat – the head butt, the Kalashnikov or the knife.
‘There is just no point in panicking in those circumstances. You deal with them one at a time.
‘You hope you don’t say the wrong thing for the next eight hours, two weeks, whatever you’re facing.’
He said they told the truth about who they were, and ‘became slightly nuisance journalists’.
He added: ‘Fortunately, as we were able to turn the kidnap into an interview and ask them what message do you have for [former US President George] Bush, what message do you have for [former UK Prime Minister Tony] Blair.
‘They seemed to think they could use us this way and gave us an
interview and let us go.’
The married 47-year-old has previously worked as the London-based
Times’ Middle East correspondent.
War photographer Gary Trotter, who runs the ISF photo agency in London, said last night: I hope he’s alright.
‘When I used to work with him I found him to be a thoroughly professional operator with a calm head on his shoulders.
‘He’s a good guy and has a lot of experience of the kind of reporting he does.’
In his book on war in Afghanistan – Operation Snakebite – journalist Stephen Grey said Farrell’s Falluja incident ‘did not put him off in the slightest’.
He added: ‘He continued to report from the frontline in Iraq.
‘He is the sort of person who realises that you have to get out of your comfort zone beyond the wire in order to work out the truth.’
Farrell worked for The Times from 1995 to 2007, starting as a London-based general news reporter and then from 2000, as South Asia correspondent covering India, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
In 2002 he became The Times’ Middle East Correspondent in Jerusalem
and Baghdad before joining the New York Times in 2007, reporting from
Baghdad, Kabul and Islamabad.
He also runs the newspaper’s At War online blog about conflicts in
Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.