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Missing Freelance Photographer Molly Bingham in Jordan

Aired April 1, 2003 - 15:30   ET


JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: We've just gotten word that the parents of freelance journalist Molly Bingham are holding a news conference in Louisville, Kentucky. Let's listen. Ms. Bingham has just recently made contact with her family. Let's listen.
BARRY BINGHAM, JR., MOLLY BINGHAM'S FATHER: ... right now have helped, and we want to thank all of you, as well as the organizations which had been extremely supportive in this difficult time. They include the Committee to Protect Journalists, the International Committee for the Red Cross, the United Nations, the U.S. State Department, and the Papal Nuncio at the United Nations. There are probably countless others who have helped without our knowledge, and we also extend our thanks to them for their efforts and their prayers.

Thank you very much. And I'm with my wife, Edie (ph), and our daughter Emily. I should also say that Emily's husband, Steven Riley (ph), has been extremely helpful. Stan McDonald (ph) has been a go- between. And also Clara Bingham (ph), our niece in Washington, D.C., has been extremely helpful in this whole process. And so if you have any questions, maybe Edie (ph) and Emily can help me answer them -- and Stan (ph)

QUESTION: Who got the call?

B. BINGHAM: Well, the call came to the office. A member of the staff picked up the phone. And honest to god, we thought it was an April fools' joke. It was not.

It was really Molly. It was not some Iraqi talking in her voice.

QUESTION: Did you get to speak with her very long, Barry?

B. BINGHAM: It was very brief. She was using somebody else's phone. And she said she could only stay on the line for a couple of minutes. I wanted to know primarily was she going to get to Amman, Jordan, safely. She said yes.

I wanted to know if she had been injured or if she was ill. She was not. And also wanted to know that the other reporters and photographers got out with her, and they did.

QUESTION: Did she say anything about the delay in reaching you and what had happened to break that communications down?

B. BINGHAM: We didn't have a chance to talk about that. I don't know.

QUESTION: What was your gut reaction when you found out it was really her?

EDIE BINGHAM, MOLLY BINGHAM'S MOTHER: His heart was really pounding, and you could see it in his throat.

B. BINGHAM: Speak into the mike.

QUESTION: What was the reaction?

EDIE BINGHAM: His heart was pounding so hard you could see it in his throat.

QUESTION: What was your reaction, ma'am?

EDIE BINGHAM: I was pretty stunned.

B. BINGHAM: You've got to speak over here.

EDIE BINGHAM: I was pretty stunned and just totally overjoyed. I could hardly believe the news.

QUESTION: So did you both get to speak with her?

EDIE BINGHAM: No. No, only Barry spoke with her.

QUESTION: Do you think she's going to plan to come home now?

EMILY BINGHAM, MOLLY BINGHAM'S SISTER: We're waiting to hear what her plans are. We certainly hope that we'll get to lay our eyes on her very soon.

QUESTION: Talk a little bit about what prompted her to leave Baghdad to begin with.

EMILY BINGHAM: What prompted her to leave Baghdad?

QUESTION: Why did she leave Baghdad to begin with?

EMILY BINGHAM: We don't know the reasons or the circumstances under which she left Baghdad. We are waiting for the full story from her.

QUESTION: When do you think you'll get that full story?

EMILY BINGHAM: I don't know. She's going to need the time to get to Jordan and time to reach us again. And I know that she's going to be under a lot of pressure to figure out what her next steps are going to be.

QUESTION: If you would walk us through the day a little bit about kind of how it's been. (UNINTELLIGIBLE), right?

EMILY BINGHAM: That's right.

QUESTION: And that's when you had no idea what was going on. What were your thoughts then, and how have they dramatically changed?

EMILY BINGHAM: Well we went through I think the first few days of this experience thinking that we would be hearing any minute from her. And we reached a point over the weekend when it became clear to us that we needed to put more pressure out there, just in case it was going to go on longer than it seemed it would at first. Because so many reporters had been expelled from the country and safely -- pretty quickly reached the border.

So we really changed our strategy over the weekend. And that's when we began to consult more with the national media, as well as the local media. And we have no idea what effect that had, but it certainly didn't seem to have hurt. And, you know, we're just really pleased that we were able to get the word out as well as we did.

QUESTION: Did Molly have any idea or concept of the push that there had been and the worry that here has been? I'm sure she knew mom, dad, family was worried. But there's been...

WOODRUFF: We're hearing from some very happy family members of freelance photographer Molly Bingham, who just today, a short time ago, telephoned her family from apparently just across the border into Jordan on her way to Amman, telling her family she had a tough week, but that she was not hurt, not injured.

Molly Bingham, the daughter, along with three other journalists, have been missing for at least a week. They disappeared from their hotel in Baghdad. There were two journalists with "Newsday," New York's Matthew McAllester, the reporter, and the photographer, Moises Saman. There was also a Danish freelance photographer named Johan Spanner (ph). He, too, is apparently safe and sound.

All four of them safe and sound, but of course many questions remain about what happened to them, where they were, whether they were held, why they left so quickly from Baghdad, from the hotel where they were staying. So all those questions we will be hoping for answers for when the four of them reach Amman, Jordan, where we are told they are headed.


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