Ex-Taliban hostage joins Al-Jazeera

Yvonne Ridley, the Sunday Express reporter held hostage by the Taliban during the war in Afghanistan, has joined Al-Jazeera, writes Jean Morgan.

The Qatar-based broadcaster is launching an English-language division for television and the internet, to complement its Arabic services.

Ridley, who left the UK last Sunday, is to be a senior editor on the website, on a two-year contract. Her first task will be to master Arabic. “It will be a great opportunity to learn the language,” said Ridley, who has been taking instruction in Muslim religion as she promised her Taliban captors she would when she was released.

Since January 2002, Ridley has worked for the Sunday Express on a retainer while expanding into television and radio and writing books. Her second book, Ticket to Paradise, will be published at the end of the year.

“It’s about a journalist and has a September 11 backdrop. All the characters are fictional but a few Fleet Street hacks might recognise themselves in anecdotes of misbehaviour,” she promised.

Might they not be inclined to sue? “They would be too embarrassed,” Ridley chuckled.

She has also worked for the Sunday Sun, Newcastle, Wales on Sunday, The Observer and The Sunday Times.

A strong Stop the War coalition campaigner, Ridley has addressed conferences in America, Canada, the Middle East and Europe.

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