It still isn’t known exactly when Sylvan Lake freelance journalist Amanda Lindhout will return to Canada.
The former Advocate columnist and an Australian photographer Nigel Brennan were freed on Wednesday after 15 months in captivity in Somalia. The two made their way by chartered plane to Nairobi, Kenya, on Thursday, to reunite with family and to receive medical treatment.
UK-based AKE Group, a security company that aids organizations working in volatile regions of the world, helped negotiate the two freelancers’ release.
A company representative confirmed on telephone with the Advocate on Friday that AKE was involved, but said he could not elaborate on what went on because the company is under contract with the families.
An operation into Somalia would likely be complex because it’s considered virtually lawless, with a central government that only controls a small portion of the country.
Dave Baugh, a political science instructor at Red Deer College, said there has been an ongoing civil war in Somalia since 1991, when a very corrupt and oppressive regime was overthrown.
Between 1992 to 1995, the UN tried to stabilize the country before withdrawing from the mission.
Islamic factions took control of Somalia and imposed sharia law, Islamic law based on the Qur’an.
Baugh said Ethiopia had troops in the country from 2006 to 2009 and with the help of U.S. combat aircraft they defeated the Islamists at every major battle. However, once Ethiopia left, the Islamists counterattacked and now Islamists control most of the country, with the central government only controlling a few square kilometres in the country’s capital. There are a few thousand African Union troops in the country at the moment, but Baugh said there is still a stalemate and it doesn’t look like there will be a strong central government any time soon in Somalia.
Every day Canadian reporters enter conflict zones in Africa, Afghanistan, Iraq and other parts of the world. Increasingly, they have become targets of kidnappings, including Lindhout and Canadian CBC reporter Melissa Fung, who was taken captive in Afghanistan for 28 days in 2008.
How the media has covered the Fung and Lindhout kidnappings has been dramatically different. In Fung’s case, CBC did not report on her kidnapping and other reporters within Afghanistan agreed not to report on it.
The Canadian Association of Journalists has asked its ethics committee to look at the idea of news blackouts in relation to reporters being kidnapped. Mary Agnes Welch, president of the CAJ, expects the issue will be discussed at an upcoming conference in the new year.
“There was a little bit of discomfort among journalists during the Melissa Fung case because there was an almost complete blackout, and quite an extraordinary one. Of course the argument there was that any kind of media puts her more at risk,” Welch said.
But Welch said in the Amanda Lindhout case the information was already out there and known to the public shortly after Lindhout had been kidnapped. The association’s concern was that the government wasn’t doing enough and taking this case seriously enough, Welch said.
“So for us, especially after a year — we were really low key in the first year — but she was gone for a year we thought this is getting bad. Our feeling was that it was probably more important to put pressure on the government and make sure Canadians didn’t forget about her,” Welch said.
A story on front page in the Friday Nov. 27 edition of the Advocate needs clarification. The story was about National Geographic contributing writer Robert Draper on meeting Amanda Lindhout in Mogadishu, Somalia. Draper said the journalists saw each other during meal times and again at night because, for safety sake, “after 5 o’clock you are best staying off the streets”. The correct spelling of a town in Somalia is Merka.