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 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.
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 Cambridge Public talk, Monday 28 January 2002
- “Shut Guantanamo now!” demonstration in London 15 July 2006, Marble Arch and Mayfair
- Private Eye on “doctoring” of Iraq crowd photo in London Evening Standard of 9 April 2003 Private Eye, 8-21 August 2003, page 4
- Objective reporting? Press coverage of London demonstration of 2 March 2002 Analysis of 3 March 2002 reports from Observer and Sunday Independent
- Inconsistency in Mirror purported Diana letter quotes 8 January 2004 Daily Mirror is inconsistent with 20 October 2003 Daily Mirror
- Guardian article: The disinformation campaign Phillip Knightley, Guardian, 4 October 2001 (Covers 1990 Gulf war lies about babies in Kuwait incubators)