The New York Times yesterday reported on the cases of two self-described journalists who have been jailed in the Middle East under American auspices. One, a filmmaker named Cyrus Kar, is now free; he had been imprisoned in Iraq after the vehicle in which he was riding was found to contain timers that are often used in explosives. Though what happened to Kar is troubling, it at least appears that officials eventually did the right thing. But the matter of Edward Caraballo, a Bronx documentarian with four Emmys to his credit, is – at least based on what we know – outrageous.

Both of these cases have gotten some media attention; I was not entirely unfamiliar with either of them. But neither story has received the coverage it deserves. Caraballo, in particular, appears to have been abandoned. When I visited the website of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, I could find only one reference, a link to a wire story from last fall. And I came up with nothing when I searched the websites of the Committee to Protect Journalists and Reporters Without Borders.

To be sure, Caraballo’s is not an easy case. According to the Times report, he accompanied two American military veterans who were convicted of entering Afghanistan as mercenaries and engaging in torture. Caraballo has been accused of being employed by the ringleader, Jack Idema. Caraballo insists he was there as an independent journalist, although he admits to having had a business relationship with Idema in the past.

According to this “Democracy Now!” report from last September, Caraballo’s lawyer and brother claim that Idema’s crew was acting as bounty hunters for the United States, and that Idema had a Pentagon contact with whom he frequently exchanged messages. If true, that would certainly give US and Afghan officials powerful incentive not to let Caraballo go free until he has finished serving his two-year sentence in a Kabul prison, where he has been the target of anti-American violence. In the “Democracy Now!” transcript, Richard Caraballo, Edward’s brother, claims that the Committee to Protect Journalists refused to take up his brother’s cause because of Edward Caraballo’s alleged business ties to Jack Imeda.

At the very least, the mainstream media ought to follow up on the charges contained in the “Democracy Now!” report, which raise the specter of a journalist being silenced under extreme conditions in order to cover up a dubious secret operation.


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