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SPJ: Release Daniel Pearl


News editors, Photo editors, International editors, Assignment desks

Robert Leger, SPJ President-Elect, 417/836-1113 or rleger@springfi.gannett.com

INDIANAPOLIS – The Society of Professional Journalists condemns the kidnapping of Daniel Pearl, reporter for The Wall Street Journal, and strongly urges his kidnappers to release him safely and immediately.

The Society also asks the kidnappers to consider that, despite their demands, Pearl – like all other American journalists – has no authority to change U.S. government policy. The reporter is an independent, internationally acclaimed journalist who has no ties to the government and is a useless target for their cause.

The Society – whose almost 9,000 members worldwide represent a diverse group of races and religions – asks that Pearl’s captors release him unharmed to his wife, who is expecting their first child. The Society also urges the U.S. and Pakistani governments to do all in their power to secure Pearl’s safe and immediate release.

“Holding the messenger hostage cannot possibly help these people in their cause,” said SPJ President-Elect Robert Leger, editorial page editor at The Springfield (Mo.) News-Leader. “They had a better chance of being heard if they had allowed Mr. Pearl to do his job – to report on the pages of the Wall Street Journal what he heard and saw in Pakistan. They should have learned from history: No kidnapping ever helps the kidnapper. Now that they have found this to be true, they should release Mr. Pearl immediately.”

Pearl’s captors have said they will kill him today if their demands are not met. His kidnappers are holding him on the demands that the United States: release all Pakistanis in U.S. custody as a result of the war in Afghanistan; give Pakistanis taken into custody more access to lawyers and their families; release Abdul Salam Zaeef, former Taliban ambassador to Pakistan; and transfer the U.S.-built F-16s, held up after Islamabad’s May 1998 nuclear tests, to Pakistan. The reporter disappeared Jan. 23 in Pakistan while on his way to conduct an interview with an important source.

Several journalism organizations, media outlets and individuals have strongly urged Pearl’s release. Those include an e-mailed plea from Paul Steiger, managing editor of the Wall Street Journal and Pearl’s boss, to the captors, as well as request from boxing legend Muhammad Ali, who is a practicing Muslim.

Terry Anderson, an Associated Press reporter who terrorists held captive for six years in Lebanon, said his captors told him – when he was released 10 years ago – that holding him captive had not proved a productive tactic for their cause.

“My captors, from Islamic Jihad, told me on my release 10 years ago that they had concluded their spate of kidnappings in the 1980’s had not been a ‘useful tactic,’ ” Anderson wrote in a New York Times article published today. “It had not brought them any rewards worth the effort, and the attention they gained was uniformly negative. They weren’t, they said, going to do it anymore. And they didn’t.”

The Society of Professional Journalists works to improve and protect journalism. The organization is the nation’s largest and most broad-based journalism organization, dedicated to encouraging the free practice of journalism and stimulating high standards of ethical behavior. Founded in 1909 as Sigma Delta Chi, SPJ promotes the free flow of information vital to a well-informed citizenry; works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists; and protects First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press.


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