Syria Frees NBC’s Richard Engel

Journalists getting wind of the veteran NBC News war correspondent’s vanishing act complied with the network’s demand to not publicize his disappearance — until Gawker’s John Cook decided to hell with NBC’s news blackout when reports surfaced in Turkey and on Twitter.

Richard Engel

Engel: “The last five days were very difficult. We are very happy to be out.”  Washington Post. UK Daily Mail On NBC’s Today:  “I am very happy we are able to do this live shot this morning.”  “There was a lot of psychological torture.”  “They made us choose which one of us would be shot first, and when we refused, there were mock shootings.”

NYT:  “After being kidnapped and held for five days inside Syria by an unknown group, NBC News Chief Foreign Correspondent Richard Engel and his production crew members have been freed unharmed,” NBC said in a statement. “We are pleased to report they are safely out of the country.”

Poynter: After entering Syria, Engel and his team were abducted, tossed into the back of a truck and blindfolded before being transported to an unknown location believed to be near the small town of Ma’arrat Misrin. During their captivity, they were blindfolded and bound, but otherwise not physically harmed, the network said.

Early Monday evening local time, the prisoners were being moved to a new location in a vehicle when their captors ran into a checkpoint manned by members of the Ahrar al-Sham brigade, a Syrian rebel group. There was a confrontation and a firefight ensued. Two of the captors were killed, while an unknown number of others escaped, the network said.

Engel and an unnamed number of other people with him were let go at the checkpoint, the network said. They then re-entered Turkey.

This information was being kept quiet by the network, reported Gawker’s John Cook on Monday.

During that blackout, which Poynter honored, The Atlantic Wire, the Houston Chronicle and others published news of Engel’s disappearance, then unpublished those stories.

Cook explained in a comment why he published news of the disappearance after honoring the blackout request for about 24 hours:

The rationale for the blackout was offered in off the record conversations, so I can’t present their argument here. But I will say this: No one told me anything that indicated a specific, or even general, threat to Engel’s safety. No one said, “If you report this, then we know, or suspect, that X, Y, or Z may happen.” It was infinitely more vague and general than that.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012 @ 5:49 AM


  • Jimbotalk

    Oh.  Well, if it was only a serious possibility that Engle and his crew would be killed, then, by all means, go right ahead. 

    • http://chickaboomer.com/ Marty Davis

       Look at what happened to Marie Colvin. …

    • Jaccharlot

      3 people are dead because of Engels action, no getting around that.

  • Jaccharlot

    If the story above is true, then Richard is living with a 4 leaf clover up his ass.

    • http://chickaboomer.com/ Marty Davis

       I agree.  When I heard I figured him for dead.

  • Jaccharlot

    BTW Marty, Cook did the right thing, this is what reporters do, report the unknown news, it’s not going to affect Richards situation one bit, if their real terrorist then he’s a dead man, if their locals looking to play Bonnie and Clyde, then he has a chance.

     I remember many a time when the NYT and TV outlets let info fly that endangered American Soldiers lives. 

    So, let it all fly, that’s how it should be done.

    • http://chickaboomer.com/ Marty Davis

      I don’t see how NBC could impose a “news blackout” if the Turkish press and Twitter were already abuzz with the news.

  • http://chickaboomer.com/ Marty Davis

    How much did it cost NBC to free Engel?  You just know the blackout was to buy time to buy them off. 

  • Sentinel

    I think the question is, “How much taxpayer money” secured his and his team’s release? You just know the NBC Chief made a midnight run to the WH for some “stimulus money” and Hillary probably got that concussion from beating her head on that prayer rug during the negotiations.

    • http://chickaboomer.com/ Marty Davis

      Very funny!

  • ZoneDaiatlas

    Anyone remember what happen to Steve Centanni? Him and a Camera man from New Zealand were forced to convert to Islam at gunpoint…