The Times newspaper of London has purchased a key advertising slot in the U.S. television drama “Homeland” to air a short feature on two of its journalists who were kidnapped in Syria, and to pitch for more readers.
The three-minute film, “Bearing Witness,” features Times reporter Anthony Loyd and photographer Jack Hill, who describe their daylong abduction by a Syrian gang led by a warlord whom Lloyd described as a “friend.”
“Bearing Witness tells a powerful story full of insight into the dangers journalists face in their endeavours to report the truth from hostile environments around the world,” Nick Stringer, chief creative officer at Times publisher News UK,
told The Guardian.
“It reveals a sense of purpose that the Times has pursued since the Crimean war. Broadcasting this short film on in the 'Homeland' slot is the perfect alignment, brand fit and reach of our target audience.”
The rival Guardian described the advertisement as a way for the Times, the flagship newspaper of Rupert Murdoch’s media empire, to boost readership.
“The Times is using the film as a lead-in to a second, more traditional, TV ad that aims to encourage viewers to buy a Times subscription package,” the Guardian wrote in a media review.
The film, which will air in Britain on Sunday, tells the story of how Lloyd, Hill and a local guide named Mahmoud were kidnapped in May, as they were driving to Turkey after one of their frequent trips into Syria to cover the three-year civil war against President Bashar al-Assad.
That morning they had breakfast with a warlord named Hakim Anza, who ran a gang of Syrian thugs who abducted foreigners for ransom. Lloyd later realized that it was his host and long-time news source who had double-crossed them.
The local guide managed to escape, but Hill and Lloyd were badly beaten after they attempted to flee and were recaptured. Anza even shot Lloyd twice in the leg.
“I considered Hakim a friend,” Lloyd told the Mirror
, another British newspaper.
Later that day, they were released under still mysterious circumstances. The journalists believe a group called the Islamic Front intervened to force the kidnappers to give up their hostages.
Their ordeal underscores the dangers facing journalists in war zones, especially in Syria, where the terrorist army of the Islamic State (ISIS) beheaded American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff in August.
The Committee to Protect Journalists
says 72 reporters have been killed in Syria since 1992.
The FBI last month warned news organizations
that ISIS is targeting war correspondents.
“The FBI assesses, based on open source statements and postings, that (ISIS) members and supporters view members of the US media establishment as legitimate targets for retribution attacks as the US-led air campaign against (ISIS) in Iraq and Syria continues,” according to an FBI bulletin.
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