The Internet is adding new momentum to the campaign urging Iraqi captors to release freelance reporter Jill Carroll.
U.S. bloggers are linking to public service announcements airing on Iraqi television. They feature an appeal from Carroll's mother and one from the politician she was trying to meet before kidnappers ambushed her. They also include references to her love for Iraq and show interviews with Iraqis who say they have come to regard Carroll as one of their own daughters.
Carroll traveled alone to work for a variety of media outlets. She has been widely credited for trying to relay the Iraqi experience to readers beyond the war-torn country's borders. She was reporting on a story for The Christian Science Monitor Jan. 7, when she was captured and her Iraqi translator was killed.
The Monitor is supporting the television announcements and backs the bloggers' efforts. Reporters Without Borders Washington representative Lucie Morillon said it is important to have as many media mobilized as possible to win Carroll's release. She also said the bloggers' movement is demonstrating the power of the Internet.
"It's an interesting initiative," Morillon said during an interview Monday. "Bloggers are not only going to defend bloggers but everyone who is trying to inform. It will probably be interesting for the Internet as a tool for freedom and more openness. Bloggers are a huge community. If you begin with a few here in the U.S. and they link to Arab blogs, it's definitely an interesting way to renew this mobilization and push international opinion."
Abductors have voiced their demands and aired footage of captives over the Internet, but the people holding Carroll have turned exclusively to television with their demands for the release of imprisoned Iraqi women. Morillon said she is not sure whether bloggers have created Internet campaigns for other journalists captured in Iraq, though they have joined and spearheaded efforts to free cyber dissidents jailed in other countries.
The Olivebranch Network credits Baghdad-based blogs for getting the ball rolling for Carroll's release. BoingBoing appears to be leading the U.S. effort. The postings circulating here state that Carroll has the independent "spirit of a blogger."
"It's impossible to know if it's reaching her kidnappers or not, but we're looking at all avenues," she said during an interview Monday. "I think every bit of support helps."
Insurgents have captured 38 reporters in Iraq since March 2003, and they released all but five, Morillon said. Reporters Without Borders is working on the release of two other journalists in Iraq.
"We also need western media to ask for their release, to show the problem from an international point of view," Morillon said. "It's not Iraqis who were abducted, not Americans, but neutral journalists eager to tell the truth."