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Fears for captured journalist

PUBLISHED: 13:30 29 September 2001 | UPDATED: 10:36 03 March 2010

AS FEARS grow for the safety of the British reporter arrested by Taliban forces in Afghanistan, the Ipswich man who gave her a job in Fleet Street told the Evening Star about his concerns.

AS FEARS grow for the safety of the British reporter arrested by Taliban forces in Afghanistan, the Ipswich man who gave her a job in Fleet Street told the Evening Star about his concerns.

Yvonne Ridley, a 43-year-old Express journalist, is being held in Afghanistan by the Taliban.

Simon Young, former assistant editor of the Sunday Express described her as a tough and tenacious reporter who would never let go of a story.

Mr Young, who now runs successful Suffolk PR company SJY Media, said that he was not surprised when he heard that Ms Ridley had gone into Afghanistan.

He said: "That was Yvonne.

"She would always go that extra mile to get a story – she would do anything."

Mr Young of Winston Avenue, also spoke of his fears that the worrying situation could turn into a repetition of the five-year kidnap of former television journalist John McCarthy who was held hostage in the Middle East between 1986 and 1991.

Ms Ridley was reportedly out in Pakistan but had gone over the border into Afghanistan to report on the plight of eight million starving refugees.

Although the exact details of her capture are currently unknown, Yvonne lost contact with the office earlier in the week due to difficult communication problems in the area.

But a report by the Afghan Islamic Press revealed that the Taliban authorities had claimed Ms Ridley had entered the country carrying no passport or other travel documents.

Mr Young said he employed Ms Ridley after she had been doing shifts on various national newspapers.

He said: "No-one else had given her a break but I knew what I was taking on.

"When she worked for me she covered a whole range of stories over here which could have put her in danger such as issues involving the IRA.

"She was not afraid to put the boot in – she could dish out as much as she was given."

Ms Ridley has a nine-year-old daughter who is in an English boarding school.

Mr Young said: "She is a fantastic mother – she used to bring her into the offices and Daisy used to sit quietly and play.

"One thing she will be thinking about at the moment is her daughter."

A senior executive of Northern and Shell, publishers of Express Newspapers is preparing to fly to neighbouring Pakistan if necessary to assist with negotiations for Ms Ridley's release.

But Mr Young said he is concerned for the way she is being treated.

He said: "She is in a situation that any woman in the world must dread.

"The Taliban are fairly unpredictable – whatever circumstances she is being held in lets hope she is being treated properly.

"This must be the worst experience of her career so far."

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