Two kidnapped journalists escape captors

Tahir Ludin, David Rohde, and their driver, Asadullah Mangal, were kidnapped on November 10, 2008, after Rohde was invited to interview a Taliban commander in Logar province outside Kabul. Ludin, an Afghan journalist, was acting as Rohde’s translator. Rohde was on book leave from The New York Times at the time of their abduction. According to the Times, he was working on the history of American involvement in the region.

The Times said that late at night on June 20, 2009, Ludin and Rohde climbed the wall of the compound where they were being held somewhere in Pakistan’s North Waziristan in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, near the border with Afghanistan. They traveled by foot to a paramilitary Pakistani Frontier Corps base and the next day were flown to the American military base in Bagram, Afghanistan. Ludin told a Times reporter that he and Rohde had outwitted the guards by keeping them up late playing a board game so that the men could sneak out while their guards were sleeping. They climbed a wall and used a rope to lower themselves 20 feet to the ground, according to Ludin. Rohde has not spoken publicly about their ordeal. Rohde was later reported in the Times as saying that Mangal, a driver who worked for a rental car agency, had decided to remain with the men who held the group.

During the seven months Ludin and Rohde were held, The New York Times suppressed reporting of the incident, with the paper’s staffers in New York personally contacting editors and bloggers who did report on the case, arguing that a media blackout was in the best interests of the safety of the men. CPJ honored the request, which the paper said came from Rohde’s family. The tactic effectively shut down coverage of the situation.