"the cardinal rule of war reportage: don't die"
December 6, 2011 7:41 PM   Subscribe

We got through the basics—how I’d arrived in Libya, why I was there—in civil tones. Then the Inspector asked, “If you were a professor at Harvard, why did you quit your job to come risk your life in Libya?” I explained as best I could that I had not been a professor but a graduate student, and part of my training was teaching undergraduates. The academic job market was tough and demoralizing, and the rigidity of the academic lifestyle had never appealed to me that much anyway. I had suspected for a few years that I’d be temperamentally better suited to working as a reporter. “Why you work journalist? You don’t study journalism, you study history!”
What I Lost in Libya by Clare Morgana Gillis, a journalist who was captured by Gadhafi forces.
posted by Kattullus (12 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
Great... but what did she lose?
posted by unliteral at 8:00 PM on December 6, 2011

Two tan army trucks pulled up on the side of the road, and several men jumped out. Jim stood, held up his hands, and said “Sahafa” (Press) over and over, and the soldiers didn’t shoot any more. Lying under the trees, I couldn’t shake from my mind the rebel propaganda about African mercenaries Qaddafi sent into the field, pumped up on Viagra and ordered to rape. Play dead, I told myself.

An older-looking soldier I took to be the squad leader ran over, screaming, and clocked me in the face with his fist. I didn’t feel anything. It was like watching a scene in a movie: Boy, that doesn’t look good. And now they are dragging her by her hair to the trucks.

After reading the heart wrenching account of her capture, I wondered what story she would have to tell if she were an Iraqi journalist captured by American forces? The fact of the matter seems to be that a press pass provides absolutely no protection whatsoever - and may even make you a target. It's one thing to report "embedded" with a company of heavily armed Marines, it is another thing altogether to free-lance with the company of unarmed photographers. These people are brave beyond reason.
posted by three blind mice at 8:06 PM on December 6, 2011 [6 favorites]

Great... but what did she lose?

Well, her friend and colleague Anton, for starters.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 8:54 PM on December 6, 2011 [2 favorites]

This is really sad (and beautiful). Am reading bit by bit.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 9:24 PM on December 6, 2011

Seemed to me she got treated a lot better by the Qadafi forces than, say, an Iranian journalist captured by U.S. forces in Iraq would have been. Or a random Afghan who had a wrong place/wrong time problem and got sent off to Bagram.
posted by zipadee at 9:37 PM on December 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yes, they wouldn't have gotten to talk to Saadi Qaddafi, either.

But I don't think I have room to say she got off lucky. This is really an amazing account. Thanks, Kattullus.
posted by koeselitz at 10:01 PM on December 6, 2011

Great post and great story.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 10:21 PM on December 6, 2011

After being released she actually returned to Libya to finish covering the battle of Sirte with the rest of her formerly-captive friends. I found her to be very well spoken, remarkably objective, and extremely brave. All of them, actually. These are the qualities that make a good war correspondent.

She's the one wearing all black standing way in the back by the wall in the attached video at about 0:16 or so. She was there most days, and certainly for the worst. Remember, this is after she got away from her captors. Remarkable woman.

Sirte - 10/07/2011
posted by Orac82 at 11:46 PM on December 6, 2011 [2 favorites]

Great article, very moving. My thoughts are with all the journalists who try to get the story out and their families when they don't make it home.
posted by arcticseal at 1:10 AM on December 7, 2011

Coincidentally I waited on Chris Hondros's mother yesterday. She told me her son gave his life for Getty.

These people do important work. I wish it was not so dangerous.

(His mom didn't seem bitter. Which surprised me somewhat. Maybe I shouldn't have been.)
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 4:15 AM on December 7, 2011 [2 favorites]

I read this last night and find I'm still thinking about it this morning. It's a powerful story. Thanks for posting it.
posted by immlass at 6:54 AM on December 7, 2011

Here's an update on Saadi Gaddafi.
posted by Clandestine Outlawry at 9:07 AM on December 7, 2011

« Older “We try and illustrate a “universe-next-door”...   |   "I heard a noise, faint, monotonous, white." Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments