Karim Collette said he's worried about his father. Alec Collette, a British journalist working with the United Nations, has been held hostage in Beirut for seven months. The only contact the 11-year-old boy and his mother, Elaine, have had since Alec's capture is a videotape they received last May. "He said that he was fine and he hoped to come home soon," Karim said of the video. "He looked pretty pale."
Karim and his mother attended a reception last night at the National Press Club that honored journalists killed in the line of duty. It was a quiet occasion for several dozen journalists to renew acquaintances, talk about current events and listen to speakers memorializing their dead colleagues and addressing the dangers of their profession.
The Committee to Protect Journalists and No Greater Love sponsored the ceremony, where Jeremy Levin of Cable News Network, who was held hostage in Lebanon for seven months, unveiled a wooden plaque commemorating 265 news people who have been killed overseas since 1976. But, as New York Times columnist Anthony Lewis, who served as emcee, told the group, that figure is already out of date: Nine more have been killed since the plaque was commissioned.
The plaque includes the names of 93 journalists killed in Argentina, 47 slain in Guatemala and 21 killed in El Salvador.
Lewis said, "We should have learned from Vietnam that journalists should not take for granted the government knows best . . . It is not the function of the press to sit quietly and imagine that it will be well."
John Matisonn, a free-lance writer and former Washington bureau chief of the now-defunct South African newspaper The Rand Daily Mail, talked about the censorship of the press and mistreatment of journalists in his country. "Harassment, arrests and whippings . . . are now becoming regular events. They show no signs of abating; they only show signs of increasing, and your concern makes a difference."
According to Michael Massey, cofounder of the committee, the organization was founded in 1981 because "around that time there seemed to be a growing tendency of repression toward journalists . . . There are clearly limits to what we can do, but the power of letters and cables has had an effect."
The journalists at the reception listened to the Levine Chamber Music Ensemble and nibbled on turkey, cheese, fruit and rolls as they socialized with their colleagues, but when the speeches began, the tone grew somber and emotional.
Charles Lewis, Associated Press Washington bureau chief, spoke passionately about Terry Anderson, an AP correspondent who is being held by terrorists in Lebanon. "The search for Terry Anderson has been to date a total failure," he said. "Where is Terry Anderson? Who are his captors?"
Peggy Say, Anderson's sister, arrived at the ceremony late, after she and other relatives of hostages met with President Reagan and then with national security affairs adviser Robert C. McFarlane.
Although Say said she was pleased with the meeting, she hastened to add, "Don't let me mislead you. I won't be satisfied until those hostages are home. I'm going to continue to press for things." She is meeting with the House Foreign Affairs Committee today, and will have a second private session with Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan. "I've been doing a little bit of yelling myself. I'm about to lose my voice."
The most poignant part of the evening was a videotape in which NBC newsman Neil Davis, set upon by Thai tanks, filmed the shots that killed him.
After the clip was shown, Steve Bell of ABC said, "I can only say Neil Davis was a marvelous friend and an awesome competitor. He epitomized more than anyone what we are here to commemorate tonight."