New York, June 30, 2004—Carmela Baranowska, a journalist and documentary filmmaker working for the Australian broadcast network SBS, was reported missing today in southern Afghanistan, along with her Afghan assistant and their driver, according to international news reports. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is investigating the circumstances behind their disappearance.
Baranowska, 35, has not been heard from since early Monday morning, when she checked out of her hotel in the southern city of Kandahar. She was wearing a head-to-toe burqa gown and left in a red sports-utility vehicle, according to news reports. It is unclear where she was heading, and SBS has been unable to contact Baranowska on her satellite phone.
According to Reuters, a spokesman for local Taliban guerrillas said they had captured a foreign woman and an Afghan man. However, another Taliban spokesman said that Baranowska was not being held, Reuters reported. “The Taliban did not kidnap the lady journalist,” Reuters quoted the spokesman as saying. Taliban guerrillas have recently been active against foreign troops in several provinces in southern Afghanistan.
A security official in the southern province of Zabul, told Reuters that a vehicle used by Baranowska had broken down on a main road west of Kandahar city. “I don’t know whether she was kidnapped or has left that area,” Khan said. According to The Sydney Morning Herald, Tim McGirk, the regional correspondent for Time magazine, confirmed that local officials had found Baranowska’s car.
A spokesman for NATO-led peacekeepers in the capital, Kabul, told The Associated Press that they were working with Afghan authorities and the U.S. military to locate Baranowska. A spokeswoman for the Australian Foreign Ministry said that the ministry has no evidence Baranowska has been kidnapped and is urgently seeking the journalist’s whereabouts, according to news reports.