Phew. She’s free. Which means her colleagues too are free. Free to wonder how justified was Yvonne Ridley’s newspaper in letting her venture her life.
When she was arrested by the Taliban on suspicion of spying, Sunday Express editor Martin Townsend (late of OK!) assured readers that his chief reporter "did not take the decision lightly" to cross the border illegally, without ID and disguised as an Afghan.
Having made his point that the decision was down to her, Townsend added that she was aware of the risks and "talked them through thoroughly with myself and her news executives and went with our full backing. Her view was that the spiralling human tragedy of Afghanistan had to be reported first-hand, away from the spin, politics and news manipulation."
Ridley’s Sunday Telegraph colleague Christina Lamb had a somewhat different take. She wrote that when the BBC’s John Simpson reported crossing the border disguised as a woman, mobiles trilled simultaneously among the British correspondents in Pakistan. London was asking, if Simpson could get in why couldn’t they?
Good question. Good answer. All Lamb’s Afghan friends warned it would be madness. And her editor, Dominic Lawson, forbade her even trying.
Was there no shadow of doubt in Ludgate House about risking Ridley’s life to interview Afghan refugees waiting to cross? Would interviews with Afghan refugees who had now made it be significantly less valuable?
Was brave Ridley taking too great a chance for a dateline one side of the border rather than the other?
And anyway, Taliban territory is hardly a haven from "spin, politics and media manipulation". Indeed, these folks do it with knife, noose and Kalashnikov.
Like all of us, Townsend was mightily relieved on Sunday that Ridley was on her way home. He was pleased to tell readers that proprietor Richard Desmond had "personally supervised the company’s efforts to obtain Yvonne’s early release".
After 10 days, she was free to see her piece presented as: "I risked death to keep secret diary for Express readers." Which was not quite what her story said.
No mention there of risking death. Just a par saying she made notes on the inside of toothpaste and soap wrappers. Nor was "I fought with vicious guards" in her story, which reported honestly that she was treated with courtesy, her door had a bolt on her side, a doctor attended to her mosquito bites and Afghans were "so nice".