Wednesday, 21 November 2012

What happened to your sense of justice?

This is the story of a brave man, a Somali journalist, 
who risked everything to help a couple he had never met. 

He wasn’t seeking a reward. For him, the safety and well-being of the couple were paramount. 

That was the goal. 

But his efforts came at an unexpectedly high cost, 
one he is still paying more than four years after the events described below. 

And now he needs your help. 

In August 2008 photojournalists Amanda Lindhout and Nigel Brennan were reporting
on refugees escaping factional fighting in the Mogadishu area of Somalia.

On August 23rd, just a few days after their arrival, they were kidnapped by gunmen
as they were driving from their hotel to a refugee camp. 

Within hours, news of their disappearance was appearing on the wires.

Friends of Amanda and Nigel, many of them journalists, began calling on their contacts
in Somalia to see if they had any information.

One man stepped forward, a video-journalist who worked for the same network Amanda had
previously been associated with.

You can read more about him here in an article published in the Edmonton Journal

The piece was written a little over a week after Amanda and Nigel had been freed from their
15 months in captivity.

It was reproduced in several other publications across Canada.

Wilton had written an earlier piece that appeared in theCalgary Herald that contained more background.

Other news services, such as UPI, were also picking up on the story. 'Journalists want recognition for savior’ it wrote.  

The Globe and Mail: Amanda Lindhout comes home

And not just the Canadian media, Australia too.

'Light shed on Brennan’s capture' was the headline in the NewsMail of the 8th December 2009.

There are many, many more.

You would be forgiven for thinking that Lindhout and Brennan would forever consider themselves 
in this man’s debt and would move heaven and earth to find some way to repay his kindness.

Furthermore, it is not beyond the realms of possibility that grateful Australian and Canadian governments 
would have rewarded his “selfless heroism” with some sort of acknowledgement.

But you’d be wrong.

Nigel and Amanda moved on. The international media lost interest. 

Ottawa and Canberra have effectively ‘thrown him under a bus’ 
in an effort to distance themselves from their own largely ineffective efforts at the beginning of the hostage drama.

Even the esteemed Committee to Protect Journalists, 
who were once at the forefront of trying to get recognition or acknowledgement for this man, 
have now washed their hands of the affair.

To quote a recent email from CPJ: “He hasn’t been a working journalist now for three years,
so he falls outside our mandate”.

He’s been forgotten.

By the West at least. But not by the men in masks who still terrorise him and his family. 
Preventing him from working and earning a living.

He’s still there, in Mogadishu. Living in poverty and fear.

His gear has been stolen, cameras, phones, laptop. 

He is now unable to support his family. His children are hungry. 

All because he did the decent, some say heroic, thing.

He isn’t seeking publicity. He isn’t seeking to discredit the narratives 
that Amanda and Nigel have built around themselves since their release. 

Above all, he isn’t seeking to embarrass the governments of Canada
and Australia.

What can you do? 

Demand an inquiry. Demand justice, Get this man and his family 
help they so desperately need and justly deserve. 

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Thursday, 15 November 2012

Amanda Lindhout, Nigel Brennan & Ahmed

This is an open letter to all Australians, Canadians and people of conscience. 

Please do not let this story go away. 

I have known Amanda Lindhout for a very long time. We haven’t actually met face-to-face, but we’ve had a long association. 

I have never met Nigel Brennan. He, nor any members of his family, have made any attempt to contact me 
or acknowledge the role played by Ahmed. 

At the time Amanda and I established communication she was working with PressTV as a correspondent in Baghdad. Difficult times. She would often call me - or I her - and have lengthy conversations about her problems in that war-torn city. 

We’d also spend extended time on MSN or some other social network chatting about how dangerous things were for her. 

We became quite close. Amanda was being treated abysmally by the management of PressTV. She was being threatened by her bureau chief, which at one point led to the management sending an email to the bureau chief (which I still have) stating: You are not allowed to kill our correspondent. 

I kid you not. 

It was an awful situation. 

When she quit and started working as a freelance for organisations such as France24 and CTV, I was happy for her. 

She moved on, and began working on other projects. 

I was communicating with her on Facebook the day before she was taken hostage. 

The rest - the 15 months captivity and her subsequent release you you can research on the Internet. 

I am in awe of her courage to venture back to East Africa, and as someone who is closely involved with the NGO and charitable sector myself,
her success in raising awareness and helping those in need is nothing short of heroic. Plaudits, kudos. 

But I am troubled. Deeply troubled. 

This enquiry in Australia might provide some interesting - but lengthy - reading. 

Several thousand words long, it makes absolutely no reference to the part played by Ahmed and his efforts to make
the first proof of life call. 

There is something extraordinary happening here too. 

Not mentioned in the report are claims by by Lorinda Stewart that she was in contact with the kidnappers 
basically from day one. 

Her alleged communication with a character called “Adan” or “Adam” might have been useful to Ahmed. Might have saved is life. Or got him killed. 

But this was never passed on to us. Why? The alleged first proof of life with Amanda apparently happened 
before the one arranged by Ahmed. We were not told. Why? 

Because they never happened? Because these are all figments of fertile imaginations hoping to score a decent part 
in the HBO movie “The Heroes Who Saved Amanda and Nigel”?

I am troubled. And I am angry. 

I received an email from Ahmed yesterday accusing me of also being among those who have abandoned him. 

After his usefulness was at an end, the Australian and Canadian governments have made every effort to abrogate ther responsibilities
with totally unsubstantiated suggestions that Ahmed was somehow complicit in the kidnapping.

Well not even suggestions. More like hints. “Do we really know who this guy is?” Wink, wink, nudge, nudge.  

I find this absurd.

They also suggested that while he might have been a “good guy” to begin with, he was “turned” by the kidnappers 
with promises of sharing the loot. So he was complicit. 

My first reaction is to consider this an insulting and deliberately misleading “red herring”. 

I was there. So was my wife. Almost 24 hours a day on the computer, on the phone, 
maintaining links, serving tea and coffee to the AFP and RCMP sitting in our living room. 

But I am also realistic. Ahmed has spent his entire life in a country without law, order, morals... 

So maybe he was “turned”. Faced with abject poverty, a sick father (who later died), half a dozen hungry kids, 
and Westerners who - to be frank - have never kept a bloody promise in their life. Who wouldn’t be tempted?

However, multiple requests for any evidence of Ahmed’s complicity have been ignored. 

In the absence of evidence, he is also being denied the benefit of the doubt. 

After all, Amanda and Nigel are home and safe. 

It is so convenient to dismiss Ahmed as just another very dodgy opportunist trying to blag his way into some cash and a cushy life in Australia or Canada.

Easy to forget him. 

But I won’t. And until anyone can prove he isn’t everything he claims to be, everything I know him to be 
from the long nights in Beijing, the pushing, the cajoling, the lies and the bullshit of the RCMP and AFP,
I won’t let Amanda and Nigel forget him either. 

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