Making A Mark

This news event did not have one or even two articles written about it: It had thousands. All the newspapers around the world knew about the kidnapping of Daniel Pearl in Karachi, Pakistan in 2003. The news coverage by certain television stations would be what some people would describe as astonishing and outright disrespectful. Others tried hard to maintain the accuracy of an event happening thousands of miles away on another continent. A lot of them tried to make an understandable, objective piece about a place that is completely foreign and unknown to most Americans. To this day, thousands of people still argue, speculate and mourn over what exactly had happened to a fellow American journalist.

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Daniel Pearl, picture taken from one of the members of the extremist group that kidnapped him.
Picture from Nydailynews.com

Pearl was born in New Jersey, but raised in Los Angeles, California. His mother, Judea, was of Iraqi-Jewish descent, making Daniel’s religion Judaism.  He eventually graduated from Stanford University in 1985 with a B.A. in Communications. Pearl then wound up at the Wall Street Journal in 1990, where he climbed his way up the ladder to become a foreign journalist for the paper. Pearl eventually became the South Asia Bureau Chief for the Wall Street Journal. He has a boy, born four months after his death, named Adam D. Pearl. Adam was born in France, where Daniel’s widow, Mariane Pearl, was raised. Mariane Pearl had written a book titled A Mighty Heart, personally documenting the days before, during and after the abduction of her husband. She had been on-site with him in Pakistan during that time.

In January of 2002, Pearl was on his way to conduct an interview with Sheikh Mubarak Ali Gilani. Gilani was suspected of connections with the “shoe bomber”, Richard Reid, and Pearl was doing research over these supposed connections for a news story. At 7:00 p.m., however, things took a turn for the worse, and Pearl was kidnapped by a militant group calling itself the National Movement for the Restoration of Pakistani Sovereignty. This group supposedly has connections to al-Qaeda. They were saying multiple things about Pearl, such as him being a spy, a member of the CIA and a threat to Pakistan. A main reason why he was kidnapped, however, would not be because he was an American journalist but because of his being a Jew. This group created a Hotmail account and sent multiple, threatening e-mails to the U.S., claiming that they would execute Pearl if their demands were not met. Some of their demands were to release all terrorist Pakistani detainees, and to continue the halted operation of sending F-16 fighter jets to the Pakistani government. They even sent pictures of Pearl to the people trying to rescue him, one of them being his wife. The photos contained Pearl shackled and holding up a newspaper clipping. The most dramatic and horrendous one, however, was when one of the group members was holding a gun to Pearl’s head, with his face down, still shackled.

Pearl’s editor, John Bussey, and Mariane Pearl, tried desperately to hold public pleas, asking the group to give Daniel back. They were ignored. Nine days after the photos were released, Daniel Pearl was gruesomely beheaded. On May 16, his body was found decomposed and cut up into at least 10 pieces. He was found in a grave just 30 miles north of Karachi, where his rescue team and Mariane were located. His body was collected and later transported to Los Angeles, back to his hometown. A video of his murder, publicized by the extremist group in February 2002, shows Daniel speaking his last famous words: “My name is Daniel Pearl. I’m a Jewish American from Encino, California, USA. I come from, uh, on my father’s side the family is Zionist. My father’s Jewish, my mother’s Jewish, I’m Jewish. My family follows Judaism. We’ve made numerous family visits to Israel.” The video also showed the gruesome murder. It lasted 3 minutes and 36 seconds.

The video was broadcasted in parts by CBS. No other news station had decided to broadcast it. Mariane Pearl reacted with great disdain for their decision to publicize parts of the video. She called it ‘inhumane’ and fought with the CBS news anchors about their decision that, to her, was a complete lack of respect for Daniel. The only response CBS had for Marianne is that it was “newsworthy” to the public. The main newspapers around the U.S., such as The New York Times, Washington Post, The Dallas Morning News and plenty others, kept up with the kidnapping of Daniel and tried to relay accurate, timely information to the American public as the abduction went on.

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Mariane Pearl and daughter, widow of Daniel Pearl.
Picture from Nytimes.com

Afterward, Daniel Pearl’s friends and family made the Daniel Pearl Foundation in honor of a beloved friend, husband, son and father. It was made to “continue Pearl’s mission, and to address what they consider the root causes of his death, in the spirit, style, and principles that shaped Pearl’s work and character.” Daniel Pearl World Music Days was made as well, by Daniel’s friends who played music with him years ago. It promoted over 1,500 concerts in over 60 countries throughout the world.  A film was produced from Mariane Pearl’s memoir of her husband’s abduction. It was made in 2007, starring Dan Futterman as Daniel Pearl and Angelina Jolie as Mariane Pearl. Bernard Henri-Levy published a controversial book titled Who Killed Daniel Pearl? In 2003. It got many criticisms because of the way he had worded certain aspects of the novel, such as fictionalizing Pearl’s final thoughts and its speculative conclusions to the slaying of Pearl. Nonetheless, this book is also being adapted into a film currently, starring Josh Lucas.  HBO Films produced a 79-minute documentary titled The Journalist and the Jihadi: The Murder of Daniel Pearl in 2006. Not only have books and films and the news world given Pearl much recognition, but a lot of awards for his work and courageous acts as a journalist have awarded him, posthumously.

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