BOB GARFIELD: No sooner had feisty British tabloid reporter Yvonne Ridley been released and deported buy the Taliban last week than another Western journalist was arrested. This time, however, the stakes may be higher. Michel Peyrard of the French weekly Paris Match was arrested along with two Pakistani journalists while he was camouflaged in a burka, the compulsory head to toe covering worn by Afghan women.
He was charged by the Taliban with espionage, and according to some news reports paraded through the streets of Jalalabad and stoned.
Joining us from Paris is the news editor of Paris Match, Marion Mertens. Ms. Mertens, welcome to OTM.
MARION MERTENS: Hi.
BOB GARFIELD: Michel Peyrard was an experienced war correspondent?
MARION MERTENS:Yes. Michel is a very experienced journalist. He's 44, and he's been covering a lot of conflicts: Timor, Kosovo, Macedonia. He was last year with the Chechan soldiers for a month. He was the only Western reporter there.
BOB GARFIELD:Well let me just get this perfunctory question out of the way: is there a possibility that he's working for French Intelligence? Is he a spy?
MARION MERTENS: No! [LAUGHS] Definite no.
BOB GARFIELD: Has the company been in contact with him at all?
MARION MERTENS: No, we haven't been directly in contact with him. We've been in contact with the Taliban authorities but we haven't been in touch with Michel at all.
BOB GARFIELD: What are the magazine's policies governing sending its people into war zones?
MARION MERTENS:Well it's the journalist's decision to take risks when he's on the field. Our responsibility is to send somebody who has enough experience to be able to decide how far he can go. In that case, Michel is very experienced. He likes to go where it's happening, but he also wants to report and wants to stay alive.
BOB GARFIELD:If the worst should occur -- the Taliban could convene a, a religious court and immediately convict Mr. Payrard of espionage and execute him immediately. Do you have any reason to believe that - that that's not happening now?
MARION MERTENS: Right now we're really at the first step of, you know, making understand to the Taliban authorities that Michel is a journalist and nothing else and there is no ambiguity about his job, and I think the first contact with the Taliban authorities was good when we showed-- them the press book of all articles that Michel has written in, you know, in his career at Paris Match. They've seen that, you know, he's a very active journalist.
BOB GARFIELD:Is it your impression in dealing with the Taliban that they're actually trying to find out whether Mr. Peyrard is in fact a legitimate journalist or whether they're just happy to have some sort of show execution-- in spite of what the facts may be? [BOTH SPEAK AT ONCE]
MARION MERTENS: I don't know. You know they did the same thing with the British journalist, Yvonne Ridley. The case was nearly the same, so--
BOB GARFIELD: And she was released. I guess my question is: is it your sense in dealing with the Taliban t there is actually a rigorous inquiry going on and that you - that there's some potential you actually can persuade them that Mr. Peyrard is a, a journalist and not a spy or do they perhaps not wish to be persuaded of that?
MARION MERTENS: It's hard to tell. It's very complicated. It's, it's, it's hard to interpret-- what the Taliban might think. Olivia Royand our managing editor just started-- meeting people in Islamabad this morning, so you know it's been a good meeting. You know we can't comment more, because we only saw them once.
BOB GARFIELD: Do you know where he's being held?
MARION MERTENS: The last report we had was that apparently Michel and his two colleagues were transferred to Kabul.
BOB GARFIELD: And there are bombs falling on Kabul.
MARION MERTENS: Yeah.
BOB GARFIELD: Well we wish you well and Mr. Peyrard as well.
MARION MERTENS: Thank you.
BOB GARFIELD: Marion Mertens is the news editor of Paris Match in Paris.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Coming up, a tale of three networks - CNN, Al Jazeera, and the Fox Family Channel, plus the media diet of Mohammed Atta.
BOB GARFIELD: This is On the Media from National Public Radio.