Daily Express misrepresented Taliban story of its own reporter Yvonne Ridley
"The copy bore no relation to the headlines" - reporter Yvonne Ridley
by Stephen Hewitt, 27 January 2002
In its front page headlines of Tuesday 9 October 2001 the Daily Express misrepresented the Taliban story of its own reporter Yvonne Ridley.
Here is a short summary of events based on contemporary reports from newspapers, for example “Taliban arrests woman journalist”, Independent 28 Sep 2001 . British journalist Yvonne Ridley bravely entered Afghanistan illegally before the USA started bombing. She was discovered and arrested by the Afghans on 28 September 2001. She was held for about ten days, and then released. Her subsequent first-hand account was printed in the Daily Express.
The aspect of the story that is documented here is the way the Express mis-represented the account of its own journalist. These were the headlines on the front page of the Daily Express Tuesday 9 October 2001.
THE BEST AND MOST UP TO DATE COVERAGE
TUESDAY OCTOBER 9, 2001 35p
WORLD EXCLUSIVE: YVONNE RIDLEY'S FIRST INTERVIEW AFTER 10 DAYS IN THE HANDS OF THE EVIL AFGHAN REGIME
FREED FROM TALIBAN HELL
I lay terrified in my bed inside filthy, rat-infested prison cell
I went on hunger strike and fought with vicious guards
I risked death to keep secret diary for Express readers
FROM YVONNE RIDLEY
IN PESHAWAR, PAKISTAN
However the reality was somewhat different. In contrast to what the Daily Express headlines said, the truth seems to be that Yvonne Ridley was not treated badly by the Afghans. She wrote:
I was never physically hurt in any way. They tried to break me mentally by asking me the same questions time and time again, day after day, sometimes until 9 o'clock at night. It was: "Who assisted you?" They also kept insisting I was their guest. I was separated from the aid workers by the foreign ministry which for some reason thought I was still in Jalalabad.(Page 4 Daily Express Tuesday 9 October 2001.)
It seems Yvonne Ridley did not write these headlines, despite the use of the first person and despite the fact they appeared in her name. The following is what Yvonne Ridley herself said about the headlines in a BBC Radio 4 interview in "The Choice" produced by Liz Leonard broadcast on 27 October 2001.
BBC interviewer: in a way I'm not surprised uhm
Yvonne Ridley: no me neither
BBC interviewer: so you get back and in your paper under your name or at least probably the Daily Express rather than the Sunday Express, under your name from Yvonne Ridley in Peshawar er is this story I lay terrified in my bed inside a filthy rat-infested prison cell, risked death to keep a diary for Express readers, went on hunger strike and fought with vicious guards. Er where did that come from?
Yvonne Ridley: The imagination of er the headline writer because the copy bore no relation to the headlines.
BBC interviewer: They made it up?
Yvonne Ridley: Well someone did.
- "Dinner with the Taliban" - reporter Yvonne Ridley's 2002 talk in CambridgePublic talk, Monday 28 January 2002