Lindhout’s long wait

Amanda Lindhout remains a world away, a pawn in a financial and political game that has few rules and fewer players.

Amanda Lindhout remains a world away, a pawn in a financial and political game that has few rules and fewer players.

Lindhout was kidnapped while working as a freelance journalist in Somalia almost a year ago. The sad anniversary will pass on Sunday likely with no resolution, and no freedom, for the young Sylvan Lake woman and Australian photographer Nigel Brennan, who was taken at the same time.

Ransom demands of $2.5 million each have not been met. More recent demands of $1 million remain on the table.

So the possibility that Lindhout will soon be free seems as remote as is the lawless African nation. The lack of credible information about the case, and the volatility of the region in which she is held, suggests only the worst.

No doubt, clandestine conversations have taken place. Perhaps even negotiations have been attempted between officials from Foreign Affairs Canada and brokers for the Somalian captors who hold Lindhout.

Certainly both retired MP Bob Mills and current Red Deer MP Earl Dreeshen have assured Central Albertans on more than one occasion that their government and its diplomatic representatives are working diligently to secure Lindhout’s freedom.

No one else of note has elected to speak on the issue in any meaningful way to the public, so we can only wonder.

It’s difficult to feel reassured a year after Lindhout was taken at gunpoint near Mogadishu. Too much time has passed, too much heartache for her family, too much uncertainty and rumour and anger.

The rest of us are simply bystanders, however much we may want to influence the outcome of the stalemate, and however much we may apply political pressure. By all means, we should be writing letters to government officials and expressing our outrage. We just shouldn’t expect a miraculous result from such efforts.

More than a year ago, Lindhout was just another ambitious young adventurer, full of courage and curiosity and commitment. Working as a freelance journalist in Iraq, after adventures in several other countries, she began the difficult task of selling her stories to any takers.

Her audience included Red Deer Advocate readers, who came to look forward to her column each Saturday. A broader audience grew on the Internet, as the Advocate’s website posted her stories and photos of tragedy and hope in Iraq. Her voice was one of compassion and her eyes were always on the unexpected. She offered insights we would never otherwise have discovered.

But she took huge chances to report stories. She was independent, perhaps reckless. Certainly she was not well prepared for her self-directed assignments. No huge corporate news organization was behind her, offering war zone protection, seminars on the skills needed to report in such areas, kidnap insurance or psychological debriefing after covering particularly difficult stories. All of these are common for full-time journalists working in such places as Somalia and Iraq.

But the gaps in her preparation for working in Iraq and Somalia are not nearly as wide as the apparent chasm between her and freedom now.

Officials argue that public disclosure of anything about the case could jeopardize both Lindhout and negotiations.

Perhaps such disclosure would be just as likely to put pressure on her captors.

Certainly it would reassure the countless Canadians living and working in strife-torn areas around the world that their government cares and acts in the event of personal disaster.

And it would tell the rest of us that every Canadian life matters, even those stranded a world away.

John Stewart is the Advocate’s managing editor.

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