Chris Barton: World rallies behind missing journalist

By Chris Barton

Sometimes world events can seem very far away from the comforts of New Zealand's insular shores. But they were thrown into sharp relief on Monday when I learned my friend was missing in Syria.

Al Jazeera reported that one of its journalists, Dorothy Parvaz, hadn't been heard from since April 29 when she disembarked from a Qatar Airways flight in Damascus.

The news kicked off an international network of reaction - testimony to Dorothy's remarkable personal qualities and the kind of journalist she is. She is a graduate of the University of British Columbia, has a master's degree from Arizona University and worked as a columnist and feature writer for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. She was awarded journalism fellowships at both Harvard and Cambridge, joining Al Jazeera in 2010 and recently reporting on the Japanese earthquake and tsunami for the network. Dorothy is warm, funny and unstoppable, with a unique perspective born of her American, Canadian and Iranian background.

As well as reports in papers all over the world and pleas from her family and fiancé there's a Free Dorothy Pravaz Facebook page and a #FreeDorothy Twitter hashtag.

Press freedom advocacy groups and governments are speaking out.

The latter includes a statement from the president of Wolfson College, Cambridge, where I first met Dorothy last year as fellow Press Fellow. Her research focussed on freedom of the press and her experiences gave her an acute sense of its value and how easy it is to take it for granted.

It was during her time at Cambridge that she learned she had landed the job with Al Jazeera. For some the thought of packing up and heading for Doha might have been daunting. For Dorothy it was a dream come true and she approached the challenge with characteristic passion and commitment.

My partner and I have been waiting for news. On Wednesday we heard that the Syrian government confirmed she was being detained. We will be watching the feeds and keeping vigil with her friends around the world until she is freed.

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_a5 at 31 Jul 2014 12:43:27 Processing Time: 443ms