Tuesday, December 18, 2012

NBC correspondent Richard Engel escapes Syrian kidnappers!

Courtesy of the Washington Post:  

NBC News correspondent Richard Engel and his four-person crew have been freed unharmed after being kidnapped inside Syria and subjected to five days of forced moves and death threats. 

The journalists were released Monday following a gun battle between their captors and Syrian rebels at a checkpoint manned by the Ahrar al-Sham brigade, NBC said. They crossed safely back into Turkey. 

Appearing on the “Today” show Tuesday morning, Engel, 39, said his captors were part of a government militia known as Shabiha, which is loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Engel described the kidnappers as Shiite Muslims, trained by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard and allied with Hezbollah. 

The kidnappers told the journalists they wanted to exchange them for four Iranian agents and two Lebanese Shabiha members who had been captured by the rebels, Engel said. That plan was thwarted when the kidnappers unwittingly drove into a rebel checkpoint while trying to move the captives to a new location. In the ensuing gunfight, two of the group’s captors were killed. 

“It is good to be here. I am very happy that we’re able to do this live shot this morning,” Engel, NBC’s chief foreign correspondent, said on “Today.”

Yesterday I received a number of comments linking to Gawker and saying that Richard Engel was missing.

On Gawker I learned that NBC had asked for a media blackout and was actively asking people not to tweet or blog about the news. Here is how Gawker rationalized their refusal to comply with the NBC request:  

No one told me anything that indicated a specific, or even general, threat to Engel's safety. No one said, "If you report this, then we know, or suspect, that X, Y, or Z may happen." It was infinitely more vague and general than that.

That, to me, seemed a rather weak justification for doing something that might place another person's life in danger, so I refused to post the story.

You know it is great to be among the first to break a story, and it sometimes makes blogging an exhilarating experience, however there is also a responsibility to make sure you do no harm to others.

I really respect Richard Engel, and think he is one of the best, and most heroic, reporters that I have ever seen. Essentially he is a national treasure and I am beyond glad to see that he is now safely back among us.

I am also glad that those who could not wait to break a story, with little regard for this man's safety, did not seem to complicate his situation or result in harm coming his way. They got lucky this time.


  1. Ailsa6:09 AM

    I am so relieved. I agree, he is the best.

  2. Anonymous6:30 AM

    How NBC News Kept Richard Engel's Disappearance Secret


  3. Anonymous7:12 AM

    Note to self: Never go to Gawker site again.

  4. Sharon8:13 AM

    I also read he was missing on another website yesterday....I can't remember which one. No one had heard from him since last Thursday...and I just held my breath. If there is one American that is so well known to love the middle east, speaks all their languages and is truly there to show both sides....it's Richard. He is our eyes and ears of the truth and what real journalists are made of. I too am very relieved to hear he is alive and well.

    1. Anonymous8:54 AM

      Sharon - well said. This is good news.
      Pat Padrnos

  5. Sally in MI9:07 AM

    I read it somewhere, and was devastated. I am so grateful that he is alive. His reports on Rachel's shows are always precise, honest, and brutal too. This man takes courage to a new level. I am glad that the leaks were harmless.

    1. fromthediagonal10:01 AM

      Sally, a correction, if I may:

      The leaks were NOT harmless!
      They were the usual stuff of the greedy "Me-First" ideology of the communications industry which often leads to gross misinformation, as we see over and again.

      If the abductors had not made a mistake, they would still be holding onto the team until they had ransomed their own people.

      Richard Engel is one of an elite group of correspondents/photographers who combine the raw adventurism of the "Danger Junkie" with their political and historical knowledge and emotional strength to report from flash points all over the globe.

      They deserve admiration as well as respect.
      That respect was not given by those news outlets who reported on it just for the sake of the "scoop".

  6. Anonymous10:04 AM

    When Richard has appeared on Rachel's show, her closing w/him, always centered/focused on his safety and him being careful.

    He is an outstanding reporter and I'm glad he and his crew came through this experience safely.

  7. Anita Winecooler8:24 PM

    It felt wonderful to hear some good news for a change! They made it out without physical injury, but they were tortured psychologically and I hope they come to terms with what they experienced. We take so much for granted. These fine reporters travel the world to educate us and face some very dangerous circumstances while doing it.

    Mr Engel is one of my favorite reporters. Martha Rattiz, Christianne Amanpour, and Anderson Cooper are in a league of their own. Real investigative journalists worthy of being called the "Fourth Estate".

    Gawker crossed the line by posting their original story, and with their lame excuse. Someone is in harms way, every other news/gossip site could "read between the lines" and know "Why", but Gawker, being "Gawker", damned the torpedoes and leaked the story anyway - To have the first "get".

    I'm relieved/grateful/thrilled that Mr. Engel and his co-workers made it out alive, but I still wonder what other feeble excuse they had ready should things have gone tragically wrong? (There's no doubt in my mind that they had two excuses ready depending on the turnout).

    They got damned lucky this time!


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